Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Only Yesterday

Year of Release:  1991
Director:  Isao Takahata
Screenplay:  Isao Takahata, based on the manga Omoide Poro Poro by Hotaru Okamoto and Yuko Tone 
Starring: Miki Imai. Toshiro Yanagiba, Yoko Honna
Running Time:  118 minutes
Genre:  drama, animation, slice of life

This lyrical, animated drama is one of the lesser known classics in the catalogue of Japan's legendary Studio Ghibli.  It tells the story of Taeko, a 27 year old, unmarried, office worker living in Tokyo.  Taking a ten day holiday from work she travels to a remote farm owned by the elder brother of her brother-in-law, to help with the safflower harvest.  Along the way she drifts back to memories of her ten year old self in 1966.  Increasingly nostalgic and wistful, Taeko's memories and dreams make her realise what she really wants from life.

This is a genuinely powerful film, which, in it's quiet way, is a masterpiece.  It deals with themes of memory, city versus country, and the relationship between adults and the children they once were.  The "present day" (or 1980s) sequences have a particularly realistic look to them, unusually for Japanese animation, the dialogue for these scenes was recorded before the animation was produced.  For the 1966 sequences, a more typical anime style is used for the characters, with the backgrounds done in  a sketchy watercolour style, which shows how memory can be.  If you look back to your own childhood memories, some elements may stand out vividly, but a lot of them are fainter and more unreal.  It also takes us into Taeko's dreams and fantasies, which are vividly depicted.

The film takes it's time and beautifully evokes the rhythms of rural life, as well as the triumphs and heartbreaks of childhood.  The film suggests that we are at our purest, most honest selves as children, and that as adults, we have to reconnect with the children that we once were.  Sometimes sweet, sometimes heartbreaking, often funny, this is a gentle dream of a film.

      The past meets the present in Only Yesterday

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