Yi Yi ★★★★★

Alienation in an alien land. Taipei painted as an inexorable giant threatening to consume us all. A family struggles to accept the human condition within themselves while the city dwarfs their inner battles amid skyscrapers and office buildings emitting otherworldly green lights out onto the streets. Dysphoria and angst incipiently grow within, yet we’re only seeing a small fraction of life in a big city. We’re barely scratching the surface with bitten fingernails, other families hold the same uncertainties and remain consumed by city life on the precipice of the technological boom, just waiting to be forgotten about. None of us can see the whole truth. Yang frames characters enclosed within tight walls, unable to break free of the shackles of everyday life holding them down. So they continue searching - reacquainting themselves with old flames, experiencing first loves, taking pictures to prove something really does exist. Destiny and second chances, would our lives be any different if we were given an opportunity to go around again? Or have all our mistakes led us to the person we are today? Every family member wants to see the whole truth, wants to empower themselves with pure wisdom, to impart wonder on those around them. So they can start with seeing the back of their head in photographs, and go from there. It’s a film bookended by a wedding and a funeral - aspects of life that can signal a new beginning and an end. But there’s never a sense of finality to the characters Yang presents here, and it’s not a Magnolia-esque ‘day in the life’ snapshot either. Yang crafts a world that lives and breathes, the city always moving. Characters always with full, beating hearts. NJ’s silent desperation, Ting-Ting’s nervous first experience of romance, Yang-Yang’s inquisitive wonder over human life - it’s all palpable. Fully formed characters that bleed through the celluloid and make the film feel like we’re witnessing a lifetime with these people. The city dances a symphony behind them, around them, within them as Yang captures the essence of city life as perfectly as anyone. The isolation within frames in a place where isolation doesn’t exist. The delicate quietude somehow seeping through despite rain pouring down. In Taipei, where nameless faceless humans exist within a city of sadness, Yang creates characters as quietly powerful and comforting that have ever existed on screen. And that last scene is perfection.

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