4 REASONS TO WATCH ‘ONLY YESTERDAY’

“Perhaps my fifth grade self is trying to tell me a new way to fly” – Taeko

Only Yesterday, directed by Isao Takahata, is a 1991 Studio Ghibli film that follows the story of Taeko Okajima. Taeko (a 27-year-old, unmarried office worker living in Tokyo) is about to take a trip to the country to visit her sister’s family. On the train she recalls different memories from her pre-adolescent life – including her strict father, the horror of her first period and what girls in year five class were like. These flashbacks about her childhood make her question if her current life is what her 10-year-old self would have wanted for her…

  1. Like most of Takahata’s other films, Only Yesterday does explore some more mature themes – such as the role of women in society. And Taeko is in no way a conformist – she’s a 27-year-old, unmarried, single salary woman living in Tokyo in 1982. The film also explores how dreams and disappointments one has during childhood can impact a person’s live (specifically a girl’s life in this film)

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  2. Taeko explores a variety of her memories, including some cute and humorous ones. However, many of the memories we get to see are actually quite awful. She was mocked by the ‘popular’ girls in her class, her first period was terrible for her and her father was not only controlling, but also denied her the opportunity to pursue theatre when she was given a role in a play

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  3. The animation is beautiful. This movie isn’t fantasy, though is doesn’t shy away from using visual metaphors. When 10-year-old Taeko imagines that she’s floating on air, her character does actually fly in the animation. Critics have also discussed the wonderful use of negative space in Taeko’s flashbacks, revealing to the audience how the flashbacks are set in a world which can now only be partially reached by Taeko’s memories and senses

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  4. In some films constant flashbacks can be kind of tiresome for the audience, but Only Yesterday uses these flashbacks to instead propel forward Taeko’s development – she goes through quite a bit of character development and does a lot of self-reflection throughout the film

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