Tea shop owner Jake (Colin Farrell) and his wife Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) have two children: young Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) and teenager Yang (Justin H. Min). Mika, of Chinese heritage, is adopted, but Yang is actually purchased—he’s a sophisticated biological android of Chinese appearance, loaded with information and trivia about China, designed to give Mika a connection to her home culture.
Unfortunately, he’s also a refurbished model, and despite Jake’s protests that second hand is just as good as new, he breaks down.
Faced with Mika’s distraught reaction, Jake sets off to get Yang repaired, which turns out to be an odyssey and a half. In the process, he begins to understand that Yang wasn’t just keeping Mika entertained and educated—he was the linchpin keeping their little family from tearing apart at the seams.
Written and directed by Korean-American video essayist Kogonada, who adapted Alexander Weinstein’s short story “Saying Goodbye to Yang”, After Yang is a thoughtful piece of speculative cinema, eschewing the effects-heavy spectacle of action sci-fi for a more thoughtful, lo-fi approach, not a million miles away from Noah Hutton’s Lapsis and Spike Jonze’s Her. We’re in the future, certainly, but a close and recognisable version thereof, where the social and cultural trappings are similar to our own and while technological change is evident, it’s both limited and pervasive.