Kogonada, the video essayist turned filmmaker, follows up his spectacular and melancholy feature debut, Columbus, with After Yang, a science fiction film about a family coping with the loss of a robotic family member, Yang. After Yang premiered at Cannes and just played Sundance, where it won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize, which is awarded to films featuring themes of science and technology. The trailer came out yesterday and it’s like a perfect little short film. Besides having a meticulous eye for composition, Kogonada is a filmmaker of tremendous depth and sensitivity, and AI and robots are fertile ground for humanist cinema (see also: Her, Ex Machina, I’m Your Man). I cannot wait to see how Kogonada mines this topic and what depths of humanity he plumbs this time.
The cast is also stellar. Jodie Turner-Smith and Colin Farrell star as the parents, Justin Min stars as Yang, and Haley Lu Richardson, veteran of Columbus, stars as a young woman who knew Yang. Another robot, maybe? I’m glad to see Kogonada and Richardson reteaming, he got a career-best performance out of her in Columbus, it’ll be interesting to see what they do together a few years down the line. And Colin Farrell is historically great in films like this, a little offbeat and anchored in the impossible or improbable. Yorgos Lanthimos knows this, getting two of his best performances in The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and though the tone of the films are wildly different, he’s equally good in more off-the-wall stuff like Fright Night and Winter’s Tale (that movie is Cats-level bonkers, but the problems lie not with Colin Farrell). It’s also great to see Jodie Turner-Smith, I mean literally to see her. Her performance was good in Anne Boleyn, but good lord the lighting was terrible. I have wrinkles from squinting at my TV watching that series. That will not be a problem with After Yang. As if Kogonada would do anything so gauche as to under-light his actors.