iksvecjart’s review published on Letterboxd:
Edward Yang's "Yi Yi" is a delicate and patient portrayal of life itself. It sounds portentous, and if directed by someone else, it could turn out wildly differently, into something spiritual ("The Tree of Life" comes to mind). However, the film grounds itself in the purest reality; that of familial bonds. It's a film which explores what it is to be a child, a teenager, and an adult. It's about something as intimate as family, and yet it is also about something as grand as human life.
There's no strict plot, so to speak, and the film is better off for it. The narrative threads never converge, but they co-exist. Why should the naivety of Yang-Yang's world have an effect on the regrets of past times that NJ and Sherry face? Why would Fatty and Ting-Ting's sexual frustrations have anything to do with A-Di's personal problems? The answer to those questions are quite simple: it frankly doesn't matter. These things all happen, and they don't have to lead into each other. I am writing this passage right now, while someone else on the other side of the globe is watching the film. We're not physically connected; we're not even metaphysically connected. But we face the same uncertainties of life, whether it's about love or loss, joy or grief.
"Yi Yi" is life as poetry. It begins with a wedding, it ends with a funeral, and it covers all aspects of life in between. There is a structure to the story (three interconnected stories in one), but if you're expecting these worlds to collide at some point in the middle of it, you'll be sorely disappointed. This is a film which acknowledges the generational gaps that exist, and it embraces them all the way.