Movie: Only Yesterday (1991)

Posted 1 August, 2016 by Lianne in Entertainment / 8 Comments

A 27-year-old office worker travels to the countryside while reminiscing about her childhood in Tôkyô.


Imagine my absolute delight when I learned that they were finally releasing a proper blu-ray release of this movie to North America with dubs and everything (not that I’ve watched Studio Ghibli movies dubbed…maybe only a couple…and that was with my family…). It always baffled me why they didn’t release this movie as it looked interesting…well, it looked like something I’d definitely check out.

Firstly, this is quite the slice of life movie that just follows a character through her reminiscing of the past and her childhood over the course of a summer. Thus this movie might not be for everyone as it moves at a pretty slow pace, moving in and out of Taeko’s past and present, life in the countryside, the reall plot really happening internally with Taeko’s character. If that’s your kind of movie, then you should definitely check this movie out as they do a wonderful job at presenting Taeko’s story and that post-modern fluid in-and-out between memory and the present. It can be a bit weird sometimes how odd moments from Taeko’s childhood would crop up in the present and bother her then, but it’s life, right? I can say for a fact that it’s happened to me on occasion.

The memories that Taeko recalls were very interesting, and presented like vignettes, which is the style of Isao Takahata’s it seems (he’s directed movies like My Neighbours the Yamadas (post) and Pom Poko (post)). Some of them were amusing (her family’s first encounter with eating a pineapple (peeling it and everything)) while others were poignant (Taeko’s first experience with a crush). But some of her memories weren’t so great either, and despite of Taeko’s seeming cheerfulness in retrospect, they seemed to make up the most of her recollections; families for example go through ups and downs but they can be pretty vicious as well (the one scene about them talking about her math score was particularly discouraging and it’s clear that it still affects her to this day).

The present story was quiet but also interesting as Taeko finds herself at a crossroads between doing something she loves and being in the countryside or returning to work in Tokyo. Studio Ghibli and Isao Takahata’s perchance for highlighting major issues comes across here as the movie discusses at great lengths the contrasts between the city and the country, how one should live a simple life, the importance of the farming industry and doing things organically, of Mother Earth. It can come across a little heavy-handed here, especially whenever Taeko and Toshio talk about their jobs, but they’re nonetheless some topics to think about.

Overall I’m glad to have finally watched Only Yesterday, it was another solid outing from Studio Ghibli and I’m glad they finally released it properly here in North America. If you’re looking for something quieter and introspective to watch, then look no further 🙂

Rating: ★★★★☆

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8 Responses to “Movie: Only Yesterday (1991)”

  1. Oh dear, I was already having a nostalgic moment for the Japanese countryside and this movie looks like it would compound that 😛 This sort of introspective storytelling/quiet setting is what I love best about Japanese narratives…adding it to my film ‘TBR’ (…maybe TBW, to be watched?).

  2. I’m so glad that you enjoyed this! I was able to get to see this and I loved it so much! It was such a delightful and sweet movie and it actually reminded me quite a bit of ‘Persuasion’ since both Taeko and Anne are quiet, mature, introspective types with families who are not exactly… great shall we say? Lol.

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