Welcome to the Panorama of the Mountains Blogging A to Z Challenge. This year I’m watching and reviewing movies from A-to-Z based on my ongoing Classic Movie Project. Most movies will be featured on one or more of three lists: AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies (USA), The Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time (UK), and Cahiers du Cinéma Greatest Films of All Time (France). In some cases, I will be very creative in assigning a Classic Movie to a letter of the alphabet, and in a few cases the movie I watch will not be Classic Movies at all.
Title: Yi Yi
Release Date: 5 May 200
Director: Edward Yang
Production Company: 1+2 Seisaku Iinkai | Atom Films | Basara Pictures |
Yi Yi is a family drama from the director of A Brighter Summer Day, and thankfully less bleak than that earlier film. It depicts the Jian family of Taipei, Taiwan: father NJ (Wu Nien-jen), mother Min-Min, early teenage daughter Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee), and 8-year-old son Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang). The film begins at the wedding of Min-Min’s brother A-Di, introducing the main characters and setting up important plot threads. (Ever since I’ve watched The Godfather, I’ve noticed the whole “start the movie at a wedding” thing popping up in a lot of movies). At the wedding reception, NJ encounters Sherry (Su-Yun Ko), a romantic partner his university days, in the hotel lobby. After the wedding, Mim Min’s mother suffers a stroke and ends up comatose.
The film does not have a straightforward plot, per se, but interweaves the four individual threads of the family members as they deal with their personal struggles.
- NJ is unmotivated by his job but bonds with potential client from Japan, Mr. Ota. On a business trip to Japan he reunites with Sherry and they have an emotional series of conversations over unresolved issues from their failed relationship.
- Min-Min is overwhelmed by her mother’s coma and leaves for a Buddhist retreat.
- Ting-Ting feels guilty because her grandmother collapsed doing Ting-Ting’s chore of taking out the trash. Ting-Ting talks to her comatose grandmother about her guilt and other concerns. She also befriends her neighbor Lili, and later briefly dates Lili’s ex-boyfriend, Fatty. While not a member of the family, Lili’s life is also documented in the film apart from her interactions with Ting-Ting.
- Yang-Yang, the MVP of this movie, is a shy kid who’s bullied by other kids and his teacher. He finds a way to express his creativity by taking photographs.
- We also spend time with A-Di, who struggles financially, gets kicked out by his wife, gets back together with an ex-girlfriend, and hosts the worst possible baby shower imaginable.
The movie is beautifully filmed and most shots use the Ozu–style of keeping the camera still and a mid-distance rather than panning or zooming or using closeups. The acting is solid and naturalistic as well. Occasionally there are plot twists that feel a bit soap opera-ish, but largely is more about the patterns of ordinary life. There are some joys and some sorrows but a lot just hovers in the middle. Clocking at over 3 hours, it is a big time commitment to spend time with these people without a traditional story or payoff, but I think it’s worth it.