Yi Yi (A One and a Two)

Directed by Edward Yang
Starring: Wu Nien-Jen, Kelly Lee, Jonathan Chang, Ko Su-Yun.
MPAA Rating: Not rated (some strong profanity in subtitles)

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
February 6, 2001

I'm always amazed to see people buy expensive wine only to put ice in it. A great film can also be diluted by slow cutting and superfluous sequences. Edward Yang's Yi Yi (A One and a Two) would have been a great two-hour film, but is three hours long instead.

Describing the premise is difficult without discussing events from the second or even the third hour of the film. It starts with a wedding in Taipei, where we are introduced to the Jian family. N.J. (Wu Nien-Jen) is an executive at a software company, and he lives with his wife, Min-Min (Elaine Jin), her mother (Tang Ru-Yun), their teenage daughter Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee), and their eight-year-old son Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang). Min-Min's brother A-Di (Chen Hsi-Sheng) is marrying the very pregnant Xiao Yan (Hsiao Shu-shen), despite a long-term relationship with Yun-Yun (Tseng Hsin-Yi). During the reception, N.J. runs into Sherry (Ko Su-Yun), a former girlfriend he hasn't seen in 30 years.

After the wedding, Min-Min's mother falls over at their apartment. She goes into a coma, and is eventually brought back to the apartment to slowly die. From there, the film follows N.J., Ting-Ting, and Yang-Yang and their different relationships.

There are some great moments with these characters, and there are many that I'd like to describe, but they don't happen until very late in the film. There isn't a lot that happens; films with this much action would not normally be this long. However, whenever it starts to drag, another moment comes along and validates the film.

I just wish that Yang had at least tried to make the film tight. The slow pace will be unacceptable to some people, as evidenced by the slow exodus from my theatre during the third hour. Most people, however, stayed and were rewarded with a satisfying ending.

I could compare this film to Sunshine: another film that stretched to three hours. It was also great in parts, and very tight, but it was laid out in three distinct acts that echoed each other. I am far more willing to forgive the slowness of Yi Yi than the redundancy of Sunshine, which would have made a great mini-series, but didn't work as a single theatrical feature. If you are willing to sit through it, and read a tremendous number of subtitles, Yi Yi can be a very positive experience.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Yi yi (A One and a Two) (2000)

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Yi Yi (2000) - English subtitles -- VHS
Yi Yi (2000) - English subtitles -- VHS Widescreen
Yi Yi (2000) -- DVD

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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan