Yi Yi

Yi Yi


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

A mid-life family saga needs time to savour the subtleties of disappointment. It is not enough to rely on cynicism as a blunt instrument to beat off romantic yearnings. "Why is the world so different from what we thought it was?" someone asks, saddened by unfulfilled dreams.

Edward Yang finds the time - seven minutes short of three hours - to study the lives of a middle-class Taiwanese family. It is well spent and beautifully constructed. Some might call this soap opera, with its intimations of infidelity, financial ruin and teenage heartache, but there is no feeling of exaggeration, no gratuitous scandal to titillate bad taste buds and when a murder is committed it happens off-screen.

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NJ (Wu Nianzhen) has reached the age when love grows tired. His brother-in-law, a flamboyant overspender, borrows money that will never be paid back and marries his pregnant girlfriend in an extravagant ceremony, culminating in drunken foolishness. His wife's mother, who lives with them, has a stroke and lies in a coma in her room, where members of the family come and talk to her.

His wife is depressed by spiritual emptiness and seeks help with a Buddhist sect. His teenage daughter (Kelly Lee) and eight-year-old son (Jonathan Chang) are perceptive and strong-willed, discovering for themselves the vagaries of the human heart.

NJ's business is in trouble, not least because of bad management amongst his fellow directors, and when he meets his first love, who has married a rich American, there is the opportunity to start over.

What appears banal in its depiction of a dysfunctional family is a joy to the watch. The characters have an energy and individuality that is always fascinating and the performances by Lee and Chang in their first movie are delightful.

Yang's style is unobtrusive and yet precise in detail. This is a film about choices and the failure of freedom to provide emotional answers. It is also full of hope.

Reviewed on: 22 May 2001
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Study of a Taipei family at an intense moment of their evolution when father questions his life, mother goes into a Buddhist retreat and daughter falls in love.
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Director: Edward Yang

Writer: Edward Yang

Starring: Wu Nianzhen, Issey Ogata, Elaine Jin, Kelly Lee, Jonathan Chang, Adrian Lin, Chang Yu-Pang

Year: 2000

Runtime: 173 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Taiwan


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