hayden’s review published on Letterboxd:
Very few directors can consistently make me feel this feeling over and over again. Whether its a rewatch of Kogonada's 2017 masterpiece, Columbus, or a first-time viewing of this film, the artist's grasp on me is unwavering. After Yang is a phenomenally simple film that transcends its genre and excels in every single dimension of filmmaking.
There is a serious level of skill required to under-build your dystopian universe intentionally, yet that feels exactly what Kogonada has done here. The construction of the world these beautiful characters inhabit is mesmerising enough without the common genre trope of over-stuffing gimmicky concepts into a futuristic society. This world is perfect. The concepts we're introduced to are simple and marry brilliantly with the essence of purity that transcends the footsteps trodden into Yang's Earth. Yang's parents don't know what to do with him, yet they are lost without him. That duality alone is enough to carry this screenplay on its back.
Kogonada’s ability to construct characters fatally flawed yet immensely loveable sees no exception with this screenplay. Mika, performed wonderfully by Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja, is the absolute embodiment of innocence. Her reactions to the world around her are that of someone so inexperienced with loss that any conceivable solution to her fears seems needless, fruitless and frustrating. Yet, it is not this outlook that shakes her family. It's not this outlook that ties her to Yang so deeply. It's her truest loss that no one can conceive that is the foundation of her being. Mika's history is disregarded and replaced with an attitude of apathy that is a virus to her mainframe. The only possibly remedy, the only solitude escape from this is the most artificial of them all - Yang.
The writing here is sublime. Kogonada tackles the terrifying notion of assimilation and the utter annihilation of heritage in a manner so tender. Colin Farell's Jake and Jodie Turner-Smith's Kyra already harbour such a delicate relationship with themselves that the thought of providing refuge to a young girl's feelings of inadequacy is just insurmountable. The impossibility of harmony shoots through this screenplay and with it comes the futility of being. Some notes of similarity can be seen between this and the writer/director’s first film, however After Yang undoubtedly stands on its own.
Yet this essence that is felt is seen even more strongly. This film is tremendously shot and the character of Kogonada is seen instantly. Every single shot is curated to the point of divinity and it cannot be overlooked. This is one of the most beautiful films I have ever been privileged enough to set my eyes upon. The camera’s work is beautifully woven amongst the wonders of Aska Matsumiya’s score to construct a landscape that feels sanctified and untouchable.
After Yang is phenomenal. The fragility of its inhabitants will shake you and its beauty will move you. There is no doubt in my mind that Kogonada is one of the best artists to do it, and I won’t back down from that. Maybe I’m too emotionally tied to him. Whatever the reason is, After Yang is not at all devoid that love. A troubling film in the best way and a warming one on the softest.