Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.
Yi Yi: A One and a Two aka 一一
dir. Edward Yang (2000) scr. Edward Yang cin. Wei-han Yang with Wu Nien-jen, Elaine Jin, Issey Ogata, Kelly Lee, Jonathan Chang
In 100 words: In Yi Yi, Yang captures something profound in the lives of a middle-class family going through crisis. The novelistic depth of the story is matched by Yang’s careful use of colors and mise en scéne to frame characters in relation to their environment, all in service of his characters’ feelings and emotions. Furthermore, Yang’s dialogue is a dream—observant, truthful, and richly detailed, characters are always reaching for something unattainable—whether an unrequited love, a lover from the past, or a sense of identity. Quietly, the film asks us to consider the drama in the mundane, profundity in everyday life.
Other Movies for Context: Yang’s magnificent filmography is full of riches. One has already appeared earlier, but two films particularly feel similar to the ennui that these characters feel here, and closer in tone to this: Taipei Story (1985) and A Confucian Confusion (1994), which both reveled with adults trying to solve some sort of midlife crisis. Yi Yi also feels influential on Ilo Ilo (2013) by Anthony Chen, a moving Singaporean movie that has a quietly observant but richly detailed script and a sensitive direction that wouldn’t be out of place in Yang’s oeuvre.