History is littered with directors who make a huge splash with their debut feature and then struggle to follow it up. It’s not surprising really as most toil for years to bring their first ‘baby’ to life. The tricky ‘second album’ has all of the expectation without necessarily the time or space to flesh out your vision. It’s a pitfall that Kogonada has skilfully managed to avoid. Building on the wonderful Columbus in 2017 with the even better After Yang.
Yang (Justin H. Min) lives happily with his family. Jake (Colin Farrell) is obsessed by tea and works long hours while his shop struggles. Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) is becoming increasingly concerned that he doesn’t spend enough time with their adopted Chinese daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja). Yang is an android companion they bought to help her assimilation into a different society, but now he’s broken and it triggers an existential family crisis.
After Yang is one of those special films which quietly creeps up on you. Kogonada channels Yasujirō Ozu in his beautiful use of composition and shot choices. Farrell is superb as a man who is constantly searching for something more until he releases what he wants is right under his nose. It’s a story about those little moments, which might not mean that much to us but can be so meaningful to others. After Yang is a treatise on memory, love and companionship. Of searching for happiness. A fragile meditation of grief and belonging.
After Yang screens at Sundance Film Festival.