Film Review: YiYi
Life is one, big, not-so-happy family in this Edward Yang film that focuses on three generations, plus a few in-laws and neighbors in Taipei. At the center of the clan are NJ and Min Min, a middle-aged married couple, both facing midlife crisis: he over a lost love, she over the emptiness and futility of her life. The film opens on brother A-Di's wedding day, augured to be the luckiest day of the year, despite the fact that his bride is already pregnant, his ex crashes the wedding reception, grandmother has a stroke, and Min Min's daughter Ting Ting blames herself for causing it. As if that weren't enough, NJ's business is failing, A-Di owes money all over town, Grandma is comatose, and Ting Ting is caught in a love triangle with the neighbor's daughter Li Li. Welcome to the family.
The transcendent character among them is Yang Yang, the eight-year-old son of NJ and Min Min, a boy obsessed with the elements of life that cannot be known: "Daddy," he says, "I can't see what you see. And you can't see what I see. How can I know what you see? Can we only know half of the truth?" he continues. "I can only see what's in front, not what's behind. So I can only know half of the truth, right?"
Cinematography by Wei-han Yang creates a voyeuristic effect as intimate scenes are viewed through open windows and doorways. This characteristic is enhanced by Yang Yang's surreptitious hobby of photographing his family and their daily habitat. For one hundred seventy-three minutes, this familial ballet plays out in subtle vignettes of daily life, as the players face their demons and seek redemption. The distinctive lack of melodrama and slow, deliberate pace of Yi Yi allows the events and issues to unfold and resolve themselves in their own time. And in the end, two enigmatic gifts make it all worthwhile.