Yi Yi

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Yi Yi
Directed byEdward Yang
Produced byShinya Kawai
Written byEdward Yang
StarringWu Nien-jen
Elaine Jin
Issey Ogata
Kelly Lee
Jonathan Chang
Hsi-Sheng Chen
Su-Yun Ko
Lawrence Ko
Music byKai-Li Peng
CinematographyWei-han Yang
Edited byBo-Wen Chen
Distributed byKuzui Enterprises
Release date
  • May 14, 2000 (2000-05-14) (Cannes)
Running time
173 minutes

Yi Yi (Chinese: 一 一; pinyin: Yī Yī; literally: 'one one') is a 2000 Taiwanese drama film written and directed by Edward Yang. The film's theme centers around the emotional struggles of an engineer named NJ (played by Wu Nien-jen) and three generations of his middle-class Taiwanese family who reside in Taipei.

The title in Chinese means "one by one" (meaning "one after another"). When written in vertical alignment, the two strokes resemble the character for "two": ().

Yi Yi premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival,[1][2] where Yang won the Best Director Award.[3] It is now generally regarded as one of the major films of the 21st century.[4][5][6]


Yi Yi depicts the trials and tribulations of the Jian family of Taipei. The narrative shifts between three perspectives: the middle-aged father NJ (Wu Nien-jen), the young son Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang), and the teenage daughter, Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee). The film starts with a wedding, concludes with a funeral, and contemplates areas of human life in between.

The father, NJ, is dissatisfied with his work and the desire of his business partners to enter into a deal with a well-known Japanese videogame company. While his partners are only concerned about making money, NJ finds that his honest nature is unappreciated in the commercial realm. To his surprise, he connects with the Japanese software mogul, Ota. Meanwhile, an old flame, Sherry, tries to come back into his life following a chance reunion.

Yang-Yang, NJ's son, is having troubles at school. He is picked on by both his female classmates and one of his teachers. However, he develops an interest in photography that buoys him through these hardships.

Finally, Ting-Ting, NJ's daughter, gets involved in a love triangle that includes her friend next door and the neighbor's troubled boyfriend.

All three characters have to deal with their problems while caring for NJ's comatose mother-in-law, as NJ's wife has left for a Buddhist retreat in order to cope with a midlife crisis. In addition, A-Di, NJ's overweight brother-in-law who marries a starlet at the start of the film, balances relationships with his demanding wife and a former love, complicating matters within his extended family.

The other Taiwanese cast members include Elaine Jin as NJ's wife, Min-Min; Su-Yun Ko as NJ's former love Sherry; Hsi-Sheng Chen as A-Di; and Chang Yu Pang as Fatty. The film also stars Japanese comedian Issey Ogata as Japanese software mogul Ota.

Production and casting[edit]

Yi Yi's filming began on April 8, 1999, and lasted until August 21, 1999. Before this, Yang's script had required the children to be ages ten and fifteen, but Yang later found Jonathan Chang and Kelly Lee (who had never acted before). When filming began, they were eight and thirteen years. Yang made amendments to the script accordingly.

Awards and accolades[edit]

Following its debut at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, Yi Yi has collected a host of awards from prestigious international festivals. Yi Yi garnered director Edward Yang the Best Director at Cannes in 2000 and was nominated for the Palme d'Or in the same year. Yi Yi also won the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival's Netpac Award ("For the perceptive and sensitive portrayal of a generation and cultural gap in Taiwan and the painful choices to be made in these difficult times."), the Vancouver International Film Festival's Chief Dan George Humanitarian Award and tied with Topsy-Turvy to win the 2000 Sarajevo Film Festival's Panorama Jury Award.

It won Best Foreign Film from the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics in 2001, the Grand Prix at the Fribourg International Film Festival in Switzerland in 2001, The Best Foreign Film from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards in 2000, Best Film from the National Society of Film Critics in 2001 (where Yang also won 2nd place for a Best Director Award), and Best Foreign Language Film from the New York Film Critics Circle Awards in 2000. The film was nominated for the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics. The film also won a "Best Film - China/Taiwan" award and "Best Director" award from the 2002 Chinese Film Media Awards, a "Best Film" award at the 2001 Chinese Film Media Awards. It was named one of the best movies of 2001 by many prominent publications and intellectuals, including The New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today the Village Voice, Film Comment, the Chicago Reader, and the author Susan Sontag, among others. Specifically, Yi Yi was named "Best Film of the Year" (2000) by the following film critics and writers: A. O. Scott of The New York Times, Susan Sontag writing for Artforum, Michael Atkinson of the Village Voice, Steven Rosen of The Denver Post, John Anderson, Jan Stuart and Gene Seymour writing for Newsday, and Stephen Garrett as well as Nicole Keeter of Time Out New York.

The film also won 2nd place for Best Director, Best Film and Best Foreign Language Film in the 2000 Boston Society of Film Critics Awards, and was also nominated for: a Best Foreign Language Film award from the Awards Circuit Community Awards, a Best Non-American Film award from the 2003 Bodil Awards, a Best Foreign Language Film award from the 2001 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, the Best Cast, a Best Foreign Film award from the 2001 Cesar Awards, a Screen International Award from the 2000 European Film Awards, a Best Asian Film award from the 2002 Hong Kong Film Awards, a Best Foreign Language Film award from the Online Film & Television Association, a Best Foreign Language Film award from the 2001 Online Film Critics Society Awards, and a Golden Spike award from the 2000 Valladolid International Film Festival.

In 2002, Yi Yi was selected by the British film magazine Sight & Sound as one of the ten greatest films of the past 25 years.

Yi Yi also placed third in a 2009 Village Voice Film Poll ranking "The Best Film of the Decade", tying with La Commune (Paris, 1871) (2000) and Zodiac (2007), and also placed third in a 2009 IndieWire Critics' Poll of the "Best Film of the Decade". The film was summarized by film critic Nigel Andrews, who stated in the Financial Times that "[t]o describe [Yi Yi] as a three-hour Taiwanese family drama is like calling Citizen Kane a film about a newspaper."[7]

Aggregation site They Shoot Pictures, Don't They has named it as the third most acclaimed film of the 21st century among critics.[4] It also received 20 total votes in the 2012 Sight & Sound polls,[8] and was ranked the eighth greatest film of the 21st century in a 2016 BBC poll.[5] In 2019, The Guardian ranked Yi Yi 26th in its 100 Best Films of the 21st Century list.[9]

Home media[edit]

The film is available on The Criterion Collection and features a newly restored digital transfer along with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack (on the Blu-ray), audio commentary from Yang and Asian film critic Tony Rayns.[10]


The piano pieces in Yi Yi's soundtrack are mostly performed by Kaili Peng, Yang's wife. They include well-known pieces like Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and J. S. Bach's Toccata in E minor (BWV 914). Peng has a small cameo in the film as a concert cellist, playing the Beethoven's Cello sonata No. 1 with her husband posing as a pianist.


  1. ^ AP via San Jose Mercury News "Taiwanese director Edward Yang dies at age 59" 30 June 2007
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2009-07-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Yi Yi: A One and a Two". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
  4. ^ a b "21st Century (Full List)". They Shoot Pictures, Don't They. 2016. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "The 21st Century's 100 greatest films". BBC. August 23, 2016. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  6. ^ Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott (9 June 2017). "The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century". NY Times. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  7. ^ John Anderson, Edward Yang, University of Illinois Press, page 10 (2005).
  8. ^ "Votes for A One and a Two". British Film Institute. 2012. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  9. ^ "The 100 best films of the 21st century". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Yi Yi". The Criterion Collection.

External links[edit]