Directed by Edward Yang, starring Wu Nianzhen, Kelly Lee, Jonathan Chang, Elaine Jin and Issey Ogata
"Life is like a movie, a mixture of sad and happy things." This quote, from a teenage character, is the lifeblood of Edward Yang's 'A One And A Two', a Taiwanese family drama that has become the toast of both art house and mainstream audiences.
In the midst of a recession, Taipei businessman NJ Jian (Nianzhen) finds his life stalled at a crossroads. His mother-in-law has suffered a stroke, his wife Min Min (Jin) is falling apart, his daughter Ting Ting (Lee) is growing up faster than he can understand, his eight-year-old son Yang Yang (Chang) is becoming increasingly detached and best (or worst) of all, his first love has turned up after a 30-year absence.
With numerous plotlines that move from middle-aged longing and teen romance to cutthroat business, Yang has created a deeply moving examination of a home in turmoil. His depiction of characters and their situations is decades ahead anything Hollywood throws up; this superb cast functions just like a family unit - knowing when to shut and act up. While the characters are in a hurry to find some balance in their lives, the director himself is in no rush to get there - he moves from storyline to storyline at tortoise pace, ringing the sounds and silences out of every scene, and while his technique is infuriating at first, you eventually warm to the slowburn. Throughout the film he handles the children's stories with just as much respect as those of their guardians, investing the same joys and perils in their hours – the most touching scene is even left to Chang's character who brings everything into perspective for a family who seem to have lost theirs.
Like the life you left in the foyer, 'A One And A Two' is a long haul, but Yang's three hours will stay with you forever.