After Yang film review — minor-key sci-fi brings AI and race relations down to human scale

Few films could pack so much into the opening credits as the gently mind-expanding science fiction After Yang. Watch carefully as the Fleming family take part in a frantic online dance contest, parents Jake and Kyra (Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith) joined by young daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) and eldest son Yang (Justin H Min). And so we see, inside a minute: much comic cuteness; the shadow of corporate surveillance technology; a critical plot point.

The last arrives at the very end of the scene, most of the Flemings coming to rest, but Yang dancing on, oblivious. Because he, we learn, is at once a family member and not — an artificial intelligence, housed in a replica human body and now seemingly defective, in the kind of near-future we sense might be here tomorrow lunchtime. His role was never the all-seeing butler-god of most sci-fi androids. Instead, he was bought as a sibling for Mika, Chinese daughter of biracial adoptive parents, to help her cultural adjustment to the US.

Now, as Farrell begins a tour of repair shops, the complexity of Asian-American relations is just one of the vast themes that this sweetly minor-key film brings down to human scale. Director Kogonada is Korean-American himself; the heartbeat of his movie never falters. ★★★★☆

In UK cinemas and on Sky Cinema from September 22

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