After Yang is a 2021 American science fiction drama film written, directed, and edited by South Korean-born American filmmaker Kogonada. It stars Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja, and Haley Lu Richardson. The plot follows a family’s attempts to repair their android companion named Yang. As the head of the family tries to find a way to fix Yang, he discovers so much more and is faced with questions about making connections and experiencing grief. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on July 8, 2021, and was released on March 4, 2022, by A24 and Showtime and received generally positive reviews. In a review published by the New York Times, they praised Farrell’s performance in the film saying, “Farrell is the most experienced performer in the main cast, and he’s able to create depths of feeling — as well a sense of untapped mystery — within the largely unmodulated expressive range that Kogonada favors, at times to a fault. With eyebrow flicks, tiny physical modulations and shifts in pitch, Farrell movingly turns a shadow into a recognizable person, while also bringing much-needed humor to the movie.” If you were fond of the themes tackled in After Yang, here are five more films that we recommend watching.
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
With After Yang’s existential themes and beautiful cinematography, the 2001 American science fiction drama film A.I. directed by Steven Spielberg shares similar themes and offers great visual effects for its time. The film is based on the 1969 short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss and was produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Spielberg, and Bonnie Curtis. It stars Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, Brendan Gleeson, and William Hurt. The film is set in the future and follows the story of David, a robotic boy programmed to experience love. It centers on David’s journey of regaining the love of his human mother and discovering where he truly belongs. The film received positive reviews and was nominated for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score at the 74th Academy Awards. Empire praised the film on their review and wrote, “Difficult and challenging, it is also profound, extraordinary and visually astounding. Tally it up and you’ve got a very unusual masterpiece.”
Ex Machina is a 2014 science fiction film written and directed by Alex Garland in his directorial debut. Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Sonoya Mizuno, and Oscar Isaac star in a story that follows a programmer who participates in an experiment aimed to assess the beautiful humanoid robot named Ava built by his company’s CEO. The experiment uses the Turing test (imitation game) to find out if Ava is capable of thought and consciousness. The film has received several accolades which include winning the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, for artists Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Williams Ardington and Sara Bennett. The film was also nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best British Film and Garland was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, while Vikander’s performance as Ava earned her several awards such as the Golden Globe Award, BAFTA Award, Empire Award and Saturn Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress. In Variety’s review, they highly praised the film’s visual effects and cinematography.” Filmed on an approximate budget of just $15 million, the film looks and sounds immaculate at every turn, with its contained, interior-based three-hander structure permitting the money to be lavished less on locations and more on eerily vivid digital and prosthetic effects.”
Another film featuring A.I. that features the relationship between humans and androids is the 2013 American science-fiction romantic comedy-drama film Her. It is written, directed, and produced by Spike Jonze. The film follows heartbroken Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) who develops romantic feelings for an artificially intelligent virtual assistant he names Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). The film also stars Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, and Chris Pratt. At the 86th Academy Awards, Her received five nominations, including Best Picture, and won the award for Best Original Screenplay. Jonze also won Best Screenplay at the 71st Golden Globe Awards, the 66th Writers Guild of America Awards, the 19th Critics’ Choice Awards, and the 40th Saturn Awards. Rolling Stone praised Johansson’s performance in the film and wrote, “Kudos to Scarlett Johansson, who speaks Samantha in tones sweet, sexy, caring, manipulative and scary. Johansson’s vocal tour de force is award-worthy. So is the movie.”
Similar to After Yang, the protagonist of the film Swan Song faces a moral dilemma. The 2021 American science fiction drama film written and directed by Benjamin Cleary and produced by Mahershala Ali, Rebecca Bourke, and Jonathan King is worth watching. The film stars Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Awkwafina, Glenn Close, and Adam Beach. It follows a father who is diagnosed with a terminal illness. To keep his family from learning the painful truth about his condition, he is given an option to replace himself with a clone. At the 79th Golden Globe Awards, Ali was nominated for Best Actor in a Motion Picture, and also received a nomination for Outstanding Actor at the 22nd Black Reel Awards. The Guardian commended Ali’s performance in the film saying, “Ali is tremendous in a dual role that takes in everything from a beguiling meet-cute with his future wife (Naomie Harris) to a third act consumed by grief and doubt about whether he did the best thing for his family after all.”
The 2009 science fiction film Moon directed by Duncan Jones in his directorial debut, and written by Nathan Parker from a story by Jones shares similar emotional tones with After Yang. The film follows Sam Bell, played by Sam Rockwell, who is towards the end of his three-year mission on the moon, only accompanied by his robot companion Gerty, voiced by Kevin Spacey. While doing one of his tasks, he encounters an accident and discovers something that shakes up his sanity and leaves him with so many doubts and questions. The film was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best British Film and won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 2010. Rockwell’s performance in the film also received praise from various critics. In a review by Common Sense Media, they wrote, “Rockwell does almost all the heavy lifting on screen, playing complex roles and running a vast range of emotions. Not only is the movie awe-inspiring in its scope, the humanity hits hard, effortlessly skipping between heartbreaking, hopeful, and even humorous”Oscar Isaac
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