javier bardem’s review published on Letterboxd:
Taiwanese director Edward Yang pulls us into the story of Jian family. Set in Taiwan, the movie follows the lives of the family from the perspectives of the three family members: father N.J., teenage daughter Ting-Ting, and young son Yang-Yang. It is a portrait of three generations of a Taiwanese family, surely successful, but haunted by lost opportunities and doubts about the purpose of life.
The movie is about the currents of life. Not in a Bergmanesque way. The family lives in the chaos of everyday activity. The grandmother is in a coma. But in the same movie, Yang-Yang drops a water balloon on the wrong person. Some scenes are almost slapstick comedy. Other scenes show the characters through the cold windows of skyscrapers, basking in fluorescent lights, their business lacking heart.
Edward Yang really was a special filmmaker. Yi Yi creeps up on you. It introduces so many characters and threads. It gives weight to moments that movies generally brush past even though life doesn't. It grows and simmers until its ending which utterly floored me. And though it is building to something, the way Yang paces and shoots his scenes, Yi Yi never feels like a typical narrative movie. His cast is phenomenal, and he really knows how to direct young performers. Kelly Lee and Jonathan Chang are wonderful. Like A Brighter Summer Day, this film's power is such that it might not be apparent until the dust settles. Regardless, it left me emotionally drained and in awe.