Mathias Mørch’s review published on Letterboxd:
Reevaluated for: Edward Yang – Ranked
Edward Yang's final masterpiece continue to impress me. Its story is mundane when summarised, but leaves an everlasting impact. Yang's films grow on you as you're watching them, and continue to do so for days, week, even months and years after you're finished. On paper Yi Yi is a relatively plain story, following a family (primarily a father, his teenage daughter and his eight year old son) over the span of a few months. It is difficult to properly explain Yang's genius, but I know that it lies in his ability to portray something bigger through the specifics of his films. Through his delicate presentation of life a story of three suddenly becomes the story of all of us.
In Yi Yi all of the three main protagonists encounter first love in some form. N.J., the father, randomly bumps into his first high-school love after 30 years apart, Min-Min, his teenage daughter, experience feelings and first dates with a boy her age, and little Yang Yang can't stop looking at and thinking about a girl at his primary school. But instead of making them three seperate stories (even though they technically are), Yang finds the common ground between them, constantly highlighting similarities through dialogue and visuals. The looks, gestures and comments are not new themselves, only to the people who experience them. Then suddenly, almost as if out of thin air, a broad picture of a lifetime of love is painted before our eyes, carefully presented as three co-existing generations experiences. From the first glance across a classroom to the bittersweet reminiscence of past times, it's all here. Yang has a vision that goes beyond time and generations, his message is as timeless as love itself.
But Yi Yi is not only restricted to the topic of love. Out of all the other characters in the film the city of Taipei (and to some degree Tokyo) is perhaps what we should consider as the fourth protagonist. The city reflects its people, technically together, but alone in their thoughts and doubts. Countless shots of characters framed in refelcted city traffic remind us that these stories and feelings are not unique but parts of a common experience. Even when we feel alone, whether in love or in grief, we are not. Buildings keeping people together, but dividing them with doors and corridors, separating us in the most crowded of spaces, even the three protagonists, united as family, aren't ever aware of the others struggles. Edward Yang sees past it all, and though his stunning cinematography, flawless character design and fantastic use of every other cinematic technique necessary he meticulously constructs what I can only call the truth. His wide, distanced shots puts characters in their environment so that both interactions and isolation occurs naturally within the frame.
I could og on and on about Yi Yi and Edward Yang, his sounds, his locations, his ability to perfectly transition between people and places, but instead I'll end it with a quote that may very well summarise his entire filmography for me. As Yang Yang proclaims to his father in their car: "Daddy, I can't see what you see and you can't see what I see. How can I know what you see?" to which his father responds "That's why we need a camera".