Review: Only Yesterday (1991)

one of the many shots from Only Yesterday depicting a idyllic Japanese countryside
one of the many shots from Only Yesterday depicting a idyllic Japanese countryside

Going back to the Studio Ghibli catalogue for a bit here. This movie was directed by Isao Takahata who also directed Grave of the Fireflies. Grave of the Fireflies was quite good so I had high hopes for this one and it did not disappoint.

This movie is about the power of childhood memories. About how seemingly mundane events from one’s childhood can have effects on you long into adult hood. Things like being bad at math (yeah me too!), getting your period, having a stern father, your first brushes with romantic love.

Taeko takes a train to visit her family in the countryside and along comes her 10 year old self. We get snippets of her memories cleverly depicted with a washed out colour palette to indicate that its indeed a memory. Various interactions during her countryside visit cause her to remember specific incidents from her childhood which she then relates to people on the farm. The way the movie switches back and forth from memories of the past to the present is done smoothly and in a way that feels natural.

Another running theme throughout the movie is its love for countryside living and specifically for farms and farmers. In that way, it reminded me of My Neighbor Totoro (1988), another movie from the Ghibli catalogue. I found the scenes of countryside living charming. To the credit of the movie it doesn’t paint a fairy tale, it does mention that farming is hard work and success is not guaranteed.

The movie is of course much different in theme from Grave of the Fireflies but like that movie, this one does a good job conveying its themes. All in all, a lovely way to spend a couple hours, I am looking forward to continuing my journey into the Ghibli catalogue of movies!