Films transport us through a vast ocean in the spectrum of emotions. Happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, and pure bliss are just some examples. They also convey amplified yet sometimes realistic portrayals of life events which themselves stir the deepest sentiments in viewers. Those very tales may have occurred in the past, present, or are impending in the lives of those who are engulfed in the film’s reality. The beautiful 2000 film “Yi Yi” directed by Edward Yang is one of the greatest examples of everyday characters highly representative of many moviegoers. One of the characters in the film states that “movies give us twice what we get from daily life” by living vicariously through their eyes, hearts, thoughts, and actions.
The story focuses on the intergenerational Jian family from Taipei. Each member faces trials and tribulations that are central within their particular stages of life. The adorable eight-year-old Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang) is quite the school prankster but is extremely inquisitive in trying to understand life’s truths. His teenage sister Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee) is challenged by friendship, loyalty, lust, and loss. Their parents, NJ (Nianzhen Wu) and Min-Min (Elaine Jin), are separately questioning the course of their life trajectories. Their maternal grandmother (Ruyun Tang) suffered a hemorrhagic stroke early in the film, and family members aim to provide care and comfort in her final days on Earth. The film also traverses through a variety of life events, including a wedding, a funeral, a business trip, a Buddhist retreat, and a birth. Many other characters interact through each family member’s storyline and these events, playing integral roles in reflection and personal growth via various interweaving perspectives and differences.
There was one exceptional detail of cinematography that I found quite intriguing in this film – the use of glass and mirrors. Often, there would be two differing scenarios reflected by two sides of glass, usually a windowpane. The simultaneous struggles of two separate individuals were mirrored within the same frame, alluding to humanity’s worldwide daily clashes and endeavours. The use of mirrors would reflect the emotions felt by the characters in a 360-degree realm, a point accentuated by Yang-Yang. He feels as if he needs to look at the back and front of a person to truly appreciate their emotional undercurrents, and this technique allows us as viewers to do the same.
The title “Yi Yi” translates to “A One and a Two”. That particular phrase is commonly used as a brief warm-up signal prior to a musical performance. In relation to the film, NJ reveals to a potential business partner that he ended a romantic relationship secondary to the partner’s lack of appreciation for music. That action impacted his future, just as decisions made within the arrangement of a musical composition can dictate many facets of its performance. Extending beyond that example, there are many within the film warning of probable conflicts. Approaches and compositions in preventing turmoil can be quite different. Every decision we make can have positive or negative consequences, and we must face the outcomes if possible with great composure and consideration. In other words, it is important to manage our roles in life patiently – one step at a time.
I do not own the above image.