Yi Yi (2000)
Yi Yi got a lot of critical applause and awards recently, so I was naturally apprehensive about picking it up (professional critics are after all a dishonest and pretentious bunch). The HK DVD was cheap, however - and more importantly the woman in the shop wouldn't let me put it back down once I'd picked it up to look at it.
There's no doubt that Edward Yang's movie is critic-bait. It's the kind of movie critics automatically hand out awards to because it's the kind of movie critics are supposed to like. Slow paced and meditative, no big explosions or kung fu fights.
It's also extremely well made, which I guess in this case justifies the praise and awards somewhat.
The movie is basically about the separate but intertwined lives of several generations of a family in Taipei. Everybody has their issues, and most of them have some kind of crisis at one point or another in the movie. There's no one particular story or event that they all partake in, but their individual stories are cleverly woven together, with the oldest and youngest members of the family acting as observers - standing in as proxies for the viewer perhaps.
It's a story about people and their relationships, and the many forms these relationships can take. It's about the difficulties that relationships with other people contain and cause, and about the rewards that make them worth the effort. It's a subtle and complex movie with richly developed characters and believable relationships and lives. It shows great powers of observation and understanding from writer/director Yang. This, along with splendid acting from the whole cast, allows the viewer to live those lives himself for a while, and learn a little bit more about life in doing so.
The movie feels a little bit like Edward Yang is passing down the experience he's gained over the years to the members of his family (in which he generously includes the viewer). It's like a soothing voice telling you not to worry, these things happen, everything will be alright - without trying to put sugar coating on any of it.
This is probably not an adequate review for such a well crafted movie. Perhaps it's one case where I should leave the job to the professionals - it's their kind of turf after all. I do want to give the film my recommendation though.