Olethros’s review published on Letterboxd:
Yi Yi starts with the beginning of a new pathway, a marriage built on the foundation of everything: A pregnancy, the promise of new life and a better future.
People celebrate, maybe with too much alcohol, kids run around and play, old acquaintances meet again and some minor inconveniences foreshadow what's to come next.
"Daddy, you can't see what I see and I can't see what you see. So how can I know what you see?"
Humans are trapped in their own perception, we all wrestle with this each and every day when confronting our problems and fears. Yi Yi is a story about exactly that, a taiwanese family struggling with everyday life, be it a teenage relationship, a young boy trying to find his path, a housewife realizing her common experiences are empty or a businessman having to deal with corporate practices, all of that while the family's elderly mother figure might never awaken again out of her comatose condition.
Edward Yang knows the human condition perfectly, he weaves a net of storylines which really are just personal, little adventures of each family member in the best slice of life style possible. Every member has their own unique way of looking at things, sometimes they try to communicate it, sometimes they fail due to inherent difficulty of sharing one's conscious feelings with other people until there is the outlet one is looking for.
That is why for example Ting-Ting, (the family's teenage daughter) is all too concerned with her role in her grandma's coma, is she to blame for the fall? At least in her own perception she is and ultimately that's what weighs on her, that's what she tells her grandma who might or might not be able to hear it because she cannot talk about it to anyone else.
"Daddy, can we only know half of the truth?"
"What? I don't get it"
"I can only see what's in front, not what's behind. So I can only know half of the truth, right?"
Edward Yang doesn't do closeups, very rarely does he think it's a good idea to not show his actors and characters from a distance, capturing all the truth and not only part of it. One's posture, one's surroundings, the full frame tells us more about any given situation than a face alone ever could. At the same time the framing when shooting through windows, reflections or other concealments often reminds us that there are still things hidden, only known to the characters, we only get glimpses into these people's lifes and thoughts after all.
"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? Now I've closed my eyes -- the world I see -- is so beautiful"
Our imagination of things is always a little different from the actuality, our expectations get the better of us and reality has to follow suit, we try to form it in the way we envision it. Edward Young knows this, it's the power of art and storytelling, Yi Yi itself is such a distillation, maybe truer than life itself, and it comes to no surprise that characters in the film talk about it after a visit to the cinema or simply act on it like Yang-Yang doing his photography, art is how we share perspectives, inner feelings and deeper truths of ourselves.
Yi Yi concludes with the end of a pathway, a funeral where our young boy can finally share his thoughts and feelings in the most sincere and genuine way, reading a message to his now dead grandmother.
That's the duality of life, that's Yi Yi.