March 11, 2022
Locations in Toronto, Vancouver, Hamilton and Kingston
Please check local listings for showtimes.
Trying to continue living without that special other by your side can be hard and life After Yang shows just how difficult it is for Jake’s (Colin Farrell) multicultural family to move on. This film is very meditative in examining who Yang (Justin H. Min) was prior to being acquired. He’s a techno sapien (an android). They were made to be assistants, butlers or maids for this future society.
This ‘bot was acquired to be Mika’s (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) babysitter. She’s adopted and doesn’t know her Chinese heritage. Yang helps her, and their bond is heartwarming. But when he “deactivates,” Mika is confused. She doesn’t understand what death is. Her parents are having trouble explaining and this is a subplot in itself. What we see here is how Jake tries to get this robot operational again.
In the flashbacks, the discourse about Yang’s concern about his mortality is just as poignant. It’s a sombre tone which elevates this work beyond other takes from mainstream works like Star Trek’s Picard and The Next Generation (concerning Data). Min is excellent at channeling some of that aspect from that series but also give his own take on the Pinocchio syndrome. The android is a fully sentient being. But now that he’s shut down, just how Jake, Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Mika deal with the loss is hard. The patriarch searches for parts to fix him, but that isn’t easy when considering he was bought second-hand.
We see the difference between how this family relates to Yang versus others who treat these machines as just that. There’s a bit of callousness in how a technician offers to reuse Yang as though he has no soul, likening him to Amazon’s Alexa. This film is amazing such that we’re getting to watch how a family rebuilds after losing a loved one. Yang meant everything to them because he was part of their unit than just a ‘pet.’
When Jake looks at the data that makes up Yang’s consciousness, he learns about the ghost in this machine. These techno sapiens were created using cloning technology rather than from the ground up. There are synaptic memories of “past lives” (beautifully rendered in a cubicle of cinematic projections) that he has to sort through. To say this film is like Philip K. Dick’s novella, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep only scratches the surface. Not as well known is how the art house movie Strawberry Mansion is also an influence. The protagonist has to examine those visions and interpret what they mean. There’s only tearful recollections of a person’s best times of their life. As for who can own them, that’s up to Jake to decide. It’s a tough decision to make.
Ultimately, this film is about preserving legacies, be it from an android or human, and it shows why Yang continues to exist in this family’s heart.
4 Stars out of 5