Robert Beksinski’s review published on Letterboxd:
Yi Yi: A One and a Two... perfectly encapsulates what it means to be a cinematic magnum opus without even attempting to do so. This is grand scale storytelling that does not seem so at first buried in a smaller scale family drama (the characters honestly do not amount to more than a dozen) but once it is revealed to each viewer than there is no helping but to be moved by the life experience that Edward Yang has captured on celluloid.
It is truly a remarkable film experience. Clocking in at close to three hours in length, it appears on the surface as a nearly tedious task. Even while watching I have to admit I was slightly frustrated at the first hour of the film given the rapidly pace introduction of the majority of the main characters and it was difficult to keep track of whom was who. Suddenly however, in some inexplicable occurrence midway through the film it all made sense. I was immersed in these individual's lives, it was as though I was no longer watching a film but genuinely acting as the fly on the wall peering through at this family drama. Needless to say if a film can pull you in so deep into the experience, you essentially feel what the characters feel and your sympathies, emotions, and passions all intertwine with one another. Being deeply moved is an understatement.
I could almost compare Yang to a Taiwanese Mike Leigh with just this one film alone but I'm considering the fact that Yi Yi is even more genuine to the task of capturing real life on celluloid than any of Leigh's films. For one point, Yang's film has more characters than your average Leigh production and not only that but I wanted to mention the pure genius of Yang being able to switch points of views in between the characters. For instance we never receive the same voyeuristic lens for each character, it is always filmed in a different and unique scope. Yang-Yang's portrayal is a brilliant look through the eyes of a child and such beauty in the adolescent curiosity as he questions (on par with philosophical origins) the world around him. Ting-Ting, a teenage girl rattled with guilt, alone, and searching for a friend. While the father N.J. is a dignified but flawed man whom carries his emotions subtly within but cracks in his facade begin to show as he too like father and son (Yang-Yang) begins to question "his" world around him.
The film is so incredibly subtle the majority of the time and yet it feels as though it is showing this immense portrait of life from every facet that we live. Even minor characters like Mr. Ota provide such understated humanity that it is all the more clear of how we get so enclosed in the experience. The sudden shift halfway through displays that it is a film that you have to stick with in the entirety and if you do then the reward is everlasting.