Yi Yi (2000)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Family Drama  |   Release Date - Oct 6, 2000 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 175 min.  |   Countries - Japan , Taiwan   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Jonathan Crow

As exhibited by his sprawling 1991 masterpiece, A Brighter Summer Day, Edward Yang can combine a poet's eye for metaphor and imagery with a novelist's sense of detail and character. Yi Yi is a domestic drama that has the sweep of an epic and the fine acuity of a haiku. Yang's story unfolds effortlessly, populated with disquieting coincidences and sudden reversals, capturing the ebb and flow of real life. Yet Yi Yi's complex narrative seamlessly creates unexpected parallels between characters that simply could not exist in a standard linear narrative. In one sequence, Yang cuts between Ting-Ting's tentative steps toward romance with a classmate and N.J.'s guilt-wracked rendezvous with his first love Sherry. Whereas A Brighter Summer Day largely concerned itself with the lives of Taiwan's disaffected youth, this film speaks most eloquently about the difficulties of middle age. The most overtly existential of Yang's work, the film shows how N.J.'s bourgeois sense of stability can be utterly overturned by a single chance encounter, creating one of the richest portraits of a midlife crisis ever to be committed to celluloid. The underlying themes of change and uncertainty tap directly into Taiwan's overall national psyche during the late '90s -- a period marked by a go-go economy that went south after the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and an increasingly tenuous political existence thanks to mainland China's public chest-beating. As the rumpled patriarch N.J., Wu Nian-Jen delivers a finely wrought performance, as does the ever-talented Elaine Jin, who plays Min-Min. Funny, sometimes shocking, and always poignant, Yi Yi is a monumental work by one of the towering figures of world cinema.