Andrew’s review published on Letterboxd:
I have had this on my watchlist for years. A three hour, Chinese, slow cinema, slice of life drama is a mood. And I thought that I would need to match that particular mood to be equip to properly watch and review this film.
I'm an idiot. Everything that used to describe this film is accurate, but I was able to coast into the vibe of this film pretty easily. To me it felt like a TV miniseries, edited into one long film. When I thought of it as "TV", I was able to ignore the runtime and focus on the family and the story. I should clarify, I am talking about European TV like The Dekalouge, or Berlin Alexanderplatz.
The film centers on the lives of a particular upper-middle class family living in Taipei. Everyone is experiencing some sort of heightened reality, but not soap opera drama. More like low key stress and anxiety. I will try to run down what is happening to everyone. Because I only watched this once, I may have some of the details or relationships wrong, and I will be typing character titles, not names, because I don't want to insult someone by calling them the wrong name.
The matriarch of the family has a stroke and in a coma. She is placed in the care of the family, who are supposed to talk to her as much as possible. The father is a businessman that is tired of unethical business practices. In addition, he and his high school sweetheart have a chance encounter, where she accosts him for breaking up with her all those years ago. Later, he will meet up with her and reevaluate his life's decisions.
The mother (daughter of the woman in the coma) has a mental breakdown because of her mom, and because she realizes that she has done nothing with her life and that everyday is exactly the same as the one that came before it. So she goes off to get it together at a Buddhist temple in the mountains.
They have a teenage daughter who is friends with a girl down the hall in their apartment building. The girl down the hall is dating a boy that is not a good boyfriend. They breakup and the other teenager gets a crush on him. The mother of the girl down the hall has a violent and explosive intimate relationship, which can be heard up and down the halls.
The family has a precocious little boy, maybe about 6 years old. He develops his first crush during the course of the movie.
There is a cousin that is bad with money, and perhaps even worse with women. The movie starts at his wedding, where his bride is very pregnant. The wedding reception preparation is upended by an old girlfriend who is jealous and makes a scene. She will do this more than once in the film. The cousin owes the father some money, so he has to avoid him at times.
That is a lot of set up. But the film just lets each of these events play out in a patient and respectful manner. People do things that you don't agree with, but no one is a bad guy. They are flawed and they are hurt, and they are lost, and they are confused, and they are all the different things that a person can be.
The movie is a piece of art. The cinematography is wonderful. Much of the movie has images reflected or refracted through and off of mirrors, and panes of glass. The images is frequently obscured and opaque. It mirrors very much the emotional state of the characters, and it gives us a better understand that even all this drama is happening with this one family, there is an entire city out there, filled with apartments and apartment buildings, wherein each one is dealing with their own personal dramas and paranoia.
It is universal in that way.
The movie reminded me a biota Robert Altman's Short Cuts in how the movie flitters in and out of these people's lives, intersecting them at times. In Short Cuts (if I remember right) most of the characters are strangers. In Yi Yi, you are dealing mainly with family members, co-workers, neighbors, and friends. So it makes more sense that their lives would intersect. But the vibe is still sort of the same.
For me it is a more to appreciate more than to "love", but I appreciated the hell out of it. Don't be a dummy like me. Just commit and I bet you will find something to grab ahold of in the film.