Yi Yi is a film about life as shown through three generations of the Jian family.
The main players of the Jian family, from youngest to oldest are young son, Yang-Yang (Johnathan Chang), teenage daughter, Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee), father, NJ (Nien-Jen Wu). NJ’s wife, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law are also involved. Yang-Yang, who gets teased by a group of girls at school receives a camera and takes pictures of the world from his perspective but also of the things people cannot see for themselves, like the back of their head. Ting-Ting finds herself in a love triangle with her best friend and her boyfriend. She also blames herself for her grandmother being a coma. NJ is involved in trying to save his company by dealing with a Japanese videogame developer. He also runs into a former love and has to deal with the reasons of why he left her.
Yi Yi is a film nearly impossible to summarize without running through the entire course of the 173 minute movie. The film is about many things but also very few things. It’s about life. The film begins with a wedding and ends with a funeral and everything between but it is not exactly a standard narrative. Since the story revolves around a family, everything is connected and each member does have their own story but the overall story involves the family. As I said, it’s difficult to put into words but it is beautiful.
Much like an Ozu film, Yi Yi focuses on a family at a specific time of their lives in a very personal manner. The performances are nothing short of incredible and the dialogue and interactions are all totally realistic and grounded. Each Jian family member can be connected with on some level, even though they are different ages, sexes, and maybe even cultures than us. It gives Yi Yi a touching presentation regardless of these factors and even though there is no action, the drama of daily life is enough here.
Yang-Yang is my favorite family member and I almost wish Yi Yi was solely about him. Every time that cute little kid was on screen I didn’t want the scene to end. Every time the scene did end, however, I was not disappointed by what was now happening, I was completely gripped by it. While not a film I would recommend to everyone due to its length and lack of conventional narrative, but if the premise sounds interesting, I think you will find a lot to love in Yi Yi.
I give it 4 Yang-Yang taking pictures of out 5.