Art Smitten

On Air

Review: Only Yesterday


Review by Ebony Beaton

Studio Ghibli’s lesser known film Only Yesterday is this year celebrating it’s 25th anniversary and is being re-released in Australia.

Only Yesterday is unlike other studio Ghibli films. It cuts back the magical and child-like imagination that is usually the main premise within their films. It is a realistic drama, it is made for adults and is particularly aimed at women.

It’s set in 1982 and follows Taeko, she is 27 and unmarried, and she grew up and lives and works in Tokyo. She takes a holiday to the countryside to visit the family of her elder brother of her brother-in-law, and is helping them on their organic farm to harvest safflower. She travels on the over night train and on her journey there begins to recall her childhood back in the 1960s. When she arrives at the station she is greeted by her brother in law’s second cousin, Toshio, they barely know each other but quickly create a very strong bond. Through the film she finds her self more and more nostalgic of her past and it makes her reflect on her memories, good and bad, the film switches between the present and the past, showing us Taeko’s memories’ about childish romance, puberty and periods and the frustrations of math and boys. The film deals with growing up both as a child and the growing up you do when you’re an adult.

One of the most beautiful parts of the film was when Taeko compared her self now and her past self going though puberty to that of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, and how this time in her life and how when she was going though puberty to be the chrysalis stage of the caterpillar to butterfly, which to me is a really important message in how we never stop growing and learning.

This film is filled with beautiful poetic imagery like this. The end of the film was particularly moving when Taeko was faced with either staying in the country side or to go back to the city, she boarded the train to go back to Tokyo, but before she reached the next station she was provoked by a vision of her past self as a 10 year old and she knew she belonged to stay in the country side.

This film is amazingly beautiful, it speaks to so many themes and issues about growing up and how we never stop growing and how our past informs the present.

Only Yesterday is in Japanese with English subtitles, it runs for 1 hour and 58 minutes and opens May 5th and is showing at Nova Cinema in Carlton