James’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Why is the world so different from what we thought it was? Now that you're awake and see it again... has it changed at all?"
Yi Yi is an epic like no other. There is no expensive chariot race sequence, no sweeping wide shots of sand dunes or grand finale battles, it simply documents the lives of a Taiwanese family through the lens of three generations, without wasting a single second.
Edward Yang captures daily life and events with such beautiful, simplistic and understated framing, often obscuring his subjects through glass, mirrors and doors, perhaps to make us forget that we're watching a scripted performance. The performances themselves are so naturalistic however, it could easily be a documentary anyway.
There is a deep dissatisfaction with modern life and corporatism in Yang's final film, materialising most clearly in the character of N.J. who struggles to find joy in his work but finds a connection with a Japanese businessman who shares the same frustrations.
Yi Yi develops a different kind of world building to what cinema usually offers, we get to know this family intimately throughout the runtime, with generations intersecting, young love and old flames, deceit, violence, regret.
You can see the influence of Antonioni coming out through Yang's themes and imagery, which can never be a bad thing.