Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Translated from Chinese, “yi yi” means “one-one.” Applied to 2000’s Yi Yi (A One and a Two), it hardly expressed equivalency.
The subtitle of late Taiwanese director Edward Yang’s last film helped: It’s the graphology notion that a Chinese character for “one” can also mean “two,” or, in life, how two people differently interpret the same circumstance. So it goes for those satisfied, or dissatisfied, with their station as Yi Yi opens.
So much of life offers small returns on small risks; it’s no wonder, for better or worse, gambling instincts occasionally surface. Relatable is this itch — spread across a Taiwan family’s familial, social, parental, marital and business connections — to reach out for what we’ve loved, set free and had come back, perhaps still not meant to be: jobs, lovers, freedoms, opportunities.
What’s introduced in Yi Yi’s first 15 minutes is stunningly sustained for 158 more via harmoniously scripted, directed and acted discourse. A thematic twin to Synecdoche, New York and The Best of Youth, Yi Yi blends the Coen Brothers’ karmic rubicons with Robert Altman’s ensemble heart.
Yang films much of Yi Yi through storefront and high-rise windows, emphasizing Taiwan’s alluring sprawl and embedding a metaphor for the Jian family’s skewed reflections on long-abandoned paths.
Muddied by memory, we can’t ever truly see the past behind us — delicately intoned by Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang), the youngest, possibly wisest, Jian. Accept no cheap imitation of life, says this empathetic, enriching, engrossing epic in which delight and distress reside together in the same heart.