Short Film Review: Yi Yi (Time Flows in Strange Ways on Sundays) (2021)

Yi Yi, directed by Giselle Lin, follows a mother’s process of grieving for her late son. The simplicity of the film complements the complexity of emotions hidden just beneath the surface. The simple implication of seeing your son’s childhood sweetheart marry someone else allows for the potency of grief to bleed through. 

The entire film is imbued with a quiet restrain, the rawness of grief just below the surface. Long shots that are reminiscent of images, a relic from the past that exists in the present, and the individuals within them stuck in time. There is a tension underlying each carefully crafted scene as if one simple misstep could break the precarious states of the individuals living in them. Each word said and unsaid feels restrained as if stuck in their throats. The way the long shot pulls and stretches these moments, where their grief overpowers the image.  

However, there is a sense of comfort that is found in grief, in living in a memory. And it is when a wedding invitation is given, where that grief must be confronted, and time starts to move forward again with or without them. It is in the 'almost' that tears them apart, knowing how real the possibility of it being their own son’s wedding, but isn’t. Knowing that someone that shared the burden of grief is moving on, that time is moving on, almost callously, uncaring of those that are stuck in the past, the cruelty of its linear movement. 

Yi Yi pulls attention to the way grief warps time when the past and present exists alongside each other and how time starts to flow when confronted. Situated between two important life events, a funeral (the extended process of mourning), and a wedding, the film focuses on those in-between moments. The everyday instances amongst the significant, the silence between words, and the small allowances of hope in the midst of grief. 

Review by Joyce Ng

Yi Yi had its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival Leopards of Tomorrow: International Competition section in August.
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