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AFTER YANG: 3 ½ STARS. “poignant family drama with some sci fi elements.”

“After Yang,” a new sci fi film starring Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith now playing in theatres, is about a sentient robot life, but the firepower of humanoid android movies like “The Terminator” has been replaced by a slow, contemplative mood.

Set in the near future, “After Yang” begins with the loss of the artificially intelligent Yang (The Umbrella Academy’s Justin H. Min), an android purchased by Kyra and Jake (Jodie Turner-Smith and Colin Farrell) as a cyborg companion and “older sibling” to their adopted Asian daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja). When Yang suffers a core malfunction and shuts down, Mika mourns the loss of her “gege” or older brother in Mandarin.

Jake’s search for a way to repair the “technosapien” caregiver is trickier than you would think. It’s more complicated than taking a malfunctioning iPad back to the Apple store. The manufacturer will only fix the twelve most common problems, and warns Jake it is illegal to access the data stored in the robot’s memory banks.

Nonetheless, Jake accepts a tool to access Yang’s core chip from museum curator (Sarita Choudhury), only to discover he’s been refurbished several times and holds memories from his many experiences.

Director Koganada focuses attention on the meditative aspects of the story, not the mechanical, creating introspective sci fi that elegantly and subtly explores issues of existence, grief, love and memory. The film’s cold, detached exterior melts away as the running time clicks along, as the sci fi aspects of the story become a study of relationships and why we connect with the people and objects that we do.

Understated but heartfelt performances from Farrell, Turner-Smith , Min and Tjandrawidjaja  add emotional resonance to a speculative story that is geared to appeal to the heart as much as the brain.

“Ultimately, the film Koganada has made is a poignant family drama with some sci fi elements. But just because “After Yang” is more interesting than exciting doesn’t mean it isn’t effective and memorable.

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