YI YI – Film Review

Set in Taiwan, Yi Yi follows the lives of the Jian family from the alternating perspectives of the three main family members: father N.J. (Nien-Jen Wu), teenage daughter Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee), and young son Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang). N.J., disgruntled with his current job, attempts to court the favor of a prominent video game company while Ting-Ting and Yang-Yang contend with the various trials of youth, all while caring for N.J.’s mother-in-law, who lies in a coma.

For about a year or so now, I have heard this film’s name brought up on numerous occasions. Seeing as how film is my number one passion, a lot of my friends are film lovers as well and we spend a lot of the time talking about our favorite movies. We always share recommendations with one another, and for a while now, several people have been telling me to watch a film called Yi Yi. I had heard absolutely nothing about it, but was surprised to see that it has almost universal praise from everybody that had seen it.

But, I didn’t watch it until today mainly because the length of the film intimidated me. It’s total running time clocks in at one-hundred and seventy-three minutes. Usually, movies that are this long tend to have a couple of scenes that feel somewhat pointless to the overall story and you can’t help but wonder if the film as a whole would have been more enjoyable had certain parts been cut out. After watching Yi Yi though, I can truthfully say that there is not a single second of wasted time present. It’s a nearly three-hour picture that I never wanted to end. I never thought I would say I wished a movie as long as this would have been even longer, but here we are.

Jonathan Chang (left) as Yang-Yang and Wu Nien-jen (right) as N.J. in Yi Yi (2000).

The late Edward Yang’s film is an absolute masterpiece in every sense of the word. It has such a simple story but it has so much to say. For some people, Yi Yi may be a little bit boring because, in the grand scheme of things, nothing major happens anywhere throughout the movie. There isn’t that one scene that will blow your mind and make you drop your jaw. There isn’t that one moment that drastically changes the story from that point forward, but rather, there are numerous moments in which the film feels one-hundred percent real. While watching Yi Yi, I truly felt as though I was peeking in at the lives of a typical Taiwanese family and experiencing their day-to-day problems with them. After a while, I felt as though I were a member of this family.

Rarely do films make you feel so warm and cozy and put you at such peace as Yi Yi does. At its core, it’s a film that shows us the beauty of life, but it’s also never afraid to show us the problems that we all go through as well. It’s the type of film that will make you tear up halfway through and you won’t really know why. Perhaps it’s just watching a family that feels so grounded that you would swear that nobody on-screen is actually acting. Perhaps it’s seeing how intricate and emotionally powerful each and every single one of the characters are. It’s a film that doesn’t have any bumps or rough patches anywhere throughout. Yi Yi is simply one of the greatest movies of all time.

Yi Yi is a beautifully touching and wonderfully enthralling look at the beauty of everyday life and the inner problems that we face on a day-to-day basis.

Overall Grade: A+

MPAA Rating: N/A

Cast: Wu Nien-jen, Elaine Jin, Issey Ogata, Kelly Lee, Jonathan Chang, Hsi-Sheng Chen, Su-Yun Ko, Lawrence Ko

Directed by: Edward Yang

Distributed by: Kuzui Enterprises

Release Date: May 14, 2000

Running Time: 173 minutes

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