Despite the elements requiring us to suspend our disbelief, the success of a fantasy and science fiction project is often measured by how grounded its narrative is. In that regard, ‘After Yang,’ the sophomore cinematic outing of ‘Columbus’ director Kogonada, hits the ball out of the park. It’s a story of grief, the complexity of sentience, and life beyond death. Even though the film has a relatively short runtime (a little over 1.30 hrs), it develops its plot with utmost care. The camera lingers in almost every scene, telegraphing the emotions of the characters. Here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘After Yang.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.
After Yang Plot Synopsis
‘After Yang’ has one of the most organic interpretations of the future ever depicted in films and TV shows. It is not necessarily utopian. While the film is almost exclusively focused on one family, you can glean that certain problems of our time have managed to remain and even evolve. The science in ‘After Yang’ also seems to be an evolved version of what we have today. Society has become even more reliant on technology, and human cloning has been legalized. Families have robotic companions that often stay with them for a lifetime and more. Politically correct terms have emerged for these artificial entities as well. They are called techno-sapiens, which implies that a significant amount of research has been done on their memories and intelligence.
‘After Yang’ revolves around a family of four. Jake (Colin Farrell) runs a teashop, while his wife/partner, Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith), appears to be a corporate worker. Their adoptive daughter, Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja), is of Chinese descent, so they have gotten Yang (Justin H. Min), a cultural techno-sapien, to educate her about her roots. During a virtual mass dance competition, Yang stops functioning. He was developed by a company named Brothers & Sisters Incorporated, but as Jake didn’t buy him new, he can’t get him serviced by its makers, at least not without paying an exorbitant amount of money. He does have a warranty from the shop he got Yang but discovers that it doesn’t exist any longer.
Jake subsequently takes Yang to a repair store affiliated with Brothers & Sisters. They charge him a considerable amount of money for just running diagnostics and inform him that Yang’s core processor has been damaged. They add that they can’t do much except turn Yang into a virtual assistant or recycle him altogether. Yang has become part of his family — a son. As a result, Jake desperately tries to find a way to make him active again. Following the advice of a neighbor, Jake visits a cheap repairman and conspiracy theorist named Russ, who finds something inside Yang that he claims is a surveillance camera. Jake then takes the device to a techno-sapien museum, where an expert, Cleo, reveals that it’s actually Yang’s memory bank, where he had stored all the memories he thought were important. While going through Yang’s memories, Jake finds out that there was someone else in Yang’s life beyond their family — a mysterious young woman whose name is later revealed to be Ada (Haley Lu Richardson).
After Yang Ending: What Happens to Yang? Does He Return to Jake, Kyra, and Mika?
As a film, ‘After Yang’ is as much about grief as acceptance. Jake’s attempt to bring Yang back isn’t driven solely by his concerns for Mika, who increasingly becomes hostile after Yang stops functioning. He genuinely grew to love the techno-sapien as a son. This becomes especially apparent when Jake gains access to the memories that Yang made with his family. The profoundness of these scenes can’t be overstated. Jake, and later Kyra, experience Yang’s cherished memories of them, and thus reliving those precious moments that they shared with a person who is now gone.
There is a lengthy scene halfway into the movie in which where Jake and Yang speak about tea. Jake admits that he has never been fond of the taste. What originally drew him were the experience, the smell, and the refined culture attached to it. In response, Yang says he wishes that he had a real connection to tea and not just know endless trivia about it. The scene underscores the bond that these two characters shared, establishing that it was no less impactful than the relationship between a parent and their human children.
Similar themes are explored when Kyra puts on the glasses and gains access to Yang’s memory archives. She is taken back to when she and Yang spoke about his butterfly collection. The conversation progresses and soon becomes about mortality.
After discovering the extent of Yang’s memories, Jake and Kyra decide to preserve them and let Cleo do her research. However, they decline to let it be put on display in the museum. In the closing scenes, Mika tells her father that she doesn’t want to lose Yang, and Jake replies by saying that he doesn’t either. This seems to contradict what Jake and Kyra decided earlier. But then again, death and the afterlife are thematically crucial to the narrative of the film. Yang is gone, but he doesn’t need to be replaced. His family can relive them whenever they want. And that is the continuation of life in itself. He isn’t vanishing into nothingness. A part of him remains with Jake, Kyra, and Mika — his third family.
Who Is the Woman in Yang’s Alpha Memory? Why Do She and Ada Look So Alike?
From Yang’s previous owner, Jake learns that even she isn’t Jake’s original owner. It is revealed that Yang has stored his memories with different families in different archives of his memory bank. The memories he made with Jake, Kyra, and Mika are stored in the Gamma Archive, while the ones he made with the second family are stored in the Beta Archive. The latter is the smallest one as Yang stayed with them for about a week. The Alpha Archive contains the lifetime of memories he made with his original family. He helped a single mother raise her child and continued to be with her when she went to live at a nursing home.
There, he became acquainted with the woman’s niece, whose name was also Ada. They grew close, and something deep developed between the two of them. However, Ada died in a car accident. The Ada of Jake’s time is the original Ada’s clone and great-niece. Yang never really told the present Ada about the connection they shared, but their relationship asserts some of the central themes of the film. its existence, even if briefly, defied grief, death, and mortality.
Read More: Where Was After Yang Filmed?