This film is an example of cinema at its finest. Cinema that makes you consider heavy existential themes, but with a tone that can range from darkly honest, to light and heartwarming; cinema that you think about for days after you’ve finished watching. Yi Yi: A One and A Two (2000, dir. Edward Yang) is probably one of the best films I’ve seen recently. It is a masterclass in character development, cinematography, and storytelling.
This summary from IMDb perfectly encompasses the film’s overarching story and themes:
“Each member of a family in Taipei asks hard questions about life’s meaning as they live through everyday quandaries. NJ is morose: his brother owes him money, his mother is in a coma, his wife suffers a spiritual crisis when she finds her life a blank, his business partners make bad decisions against his advice, and he reconnects with his first love 30 years after he dumped her. His teenage daughter Ting-Ting watches emotions roil in their neighbors’ flat and is experiencing the first stirrings of love. His 8-year-old son Yang-Yang is laconic like his dad and pursues truth with the help of a camera. “Why is the world so different from what we think it is?” asks Ting-Ting.”
I could honestly write for ever and ever about this film – it is absolutely beautiful. However, this is one of those films that I would recommend seeing without reading a lot of analysis beforehand. This isn’t a film you think about, it’s a film you feel about.
Some might complain that the film is a bit long, at 173 minutes, but I believe the film’s length allows the themes and interrelationships of the characters to shine through in an organic way, rather than an overly constructed way. Each character has their own story, as well as contributing to the overall story, and since their issues are complex, it makes sense to give each one its rightful amount of attention and focus. This is a film that you won’t want to end, but at the end of the film, you’ll feel so full of the story that you’re glad that you were there for the ending. This is quite a rare feeling, at least for me – the conflict between not wanting the film to end, but also being thankful that it did.
The cinematography and imagery absolutely contributes to the overall experience of the film. There is a distinctly warm colour scheme, which reminded me of Spike Jonze’s Her (2013). This is a story about humanity, and the colours mirror the down-to-earth feeling of the story. The use of colour is stunning. Each shot seems simultaneously minimal, and filled with expression. Keeping in mind that I don’t want to write too much about this film, here is a selection of shots from the film that show off its use of colour and its expressive shotmaking. I would highly encourage all of you to watch this film when you get a sneaky afternoon off, keeping in mind the runtime – this would also be an excellent film to watch on a rainy day.
Watch the trailer here.
All images sourced from Tumblr search: “yi yi”.