One of the more idiotic rules at the Oscars is that each country may only submit one film for consideration for Best Foreign Film. I suppose there's some lame sense of fairness to this rule, but we're seeing the downside of it this year. You see, Taiwan, sensing a clear winner with the phenomenon that is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, selected that film as their nominee, even though frankly it could and should have been submitted for Best Picture, period. The problem is that their choice shuts out Taiwan's other great – indeed, even greater – film of 2000: Edward Yang's humanistic family drama Yi Yi.
No matter: Yi Yi (aka A One and a Two) still wouldn't have caught on with American audiences like its more exotic competitor. There are no martial arts here, no period costumes, no mystical swords. Just the lives and loves of an ordinary family living in contemporary Taipei. Yang also boldly stretches out the length of his film to a whopping three hours, and although the film is never boring, sitting through the entire affair can tire out a viewer's bottom. But it is so worth it.
Taking this family (particularly the father, who is silently suffering through a midlife crisis) and finding parallels between their individual lives through their relationships with their "first loves" – recently established or rediscovered – Yang concocts an overwhelmingly touching and clear-eyed portrait of Life As We Know It. Elegantly shot with great restraint (Yang avoids close-ups, preferring to frame his characters within their cluttered environments, and he doesn't move his camera very much), we become, during those three hours, fully invested in these characters' strained, quiet lives. In the end, Yang suggests that every family, even "ordinary" ones like yours or mine, deserves epic treatment.