Mikey Ehms’s review published on Letterboxd:
Films about “life” are always a really tricky thing because they usually come off either as really schlocky and self-indulgent to a point where it almost seems as though they’ve lost the plot along the way (Magnolia), or they are so wrapped up in being “real” that one could make the argument that that in of itself is some kind of gimmick (Paterson). Don’t get me wrong, neither of those qualities are inherently bad, in fact both those films are ones that I absolutely adore because of those aspects in a lot of ways. But it doesn’t change the fact that that brand of humanism still has a level of dramatization that could put others off. But in all honesty, I don’t see that dramatization anywhere in Yi Yi.
A film that feels more in tune with a photo album than a commercial piece of entertainment, Yi Yi doesn’t go for the “real” look at the intertwining lives within this family as much as it aims to portray them in an honest and humble light. It’s hard to even talk about because while so much occurs in its near 3 hour runtime, it doesn’t feel as though it’s looking to be deeply analyzed but rather just experienced. Cuz a lot of what happens in here I can just describe as “well yeah there’s highs and lows and sometimes shit happens”, but it’s such a palpable feeling that just grows inside of you. Maybe you relate to this in more ways than one, maybe you find it comforting, maybe it helps you realize some things about yourself, maybe it made you cry or laugh or stressed or anything. Or maybe you just thought it was entertaining. Idk about your experiences, I barely can comprehend what I felt. Maybe if we look at it from an angle we can’t initially view we’ll see the whole truth. Again, I don’t have any concrete answers.
Recently I’ve been noticing a trend with the stuff that I really connect: these humanistic stories that almost effortlessly showcase the honest happenings and emotions that make-up the human experience. Kinda like an unfiltered bottle of humanism and almost impressionistic (?) filmmaking. Like some of my most favorite films I’ve seen recently being The Irishman, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Paterson (as mentioned previously), many moments and episodes from Adventure Time (trust me), and the one I compared this the most to while watching: Eternity and A Day. While Yi Yi is exponentially more different and modest than practically all the other examples listed here, I still feel as though there’s a common tie between all of them as they all (to some extent) aim to portray people and their intertwining relationships in such a fashion that exposes much of what we expect out of each other as ... idk bullshit (?) to some degree? Maybe?
Idk. I’m rambling now. I just know that this is the type of humanist filmmaking that I could only hope to make. Cuz in all honesty, I very rarely find much passion for anything that doesn’t at the very least base itself within the human experience.