Movie Review: Only Yesterday (1991)


Director: Isao Takahata
Release: 1991


As twenty-seven-year-old Taeko goes to visit her relatives in the countryside, she begins to remember her fifth grade self.  Taeko has always lived in the city.  However, as she picks saffron flowers and begins to fall for a handsome farmer, she wonders if she’s living the life she has always wanted.


Only Yesterday is a quietly reflective film, one that moves between past and present as Taeko attempts to discern who she was, who she is, and who she wants to be.  It is a not a plot-driven film, but rather a character-driven film.  Not all the pieces fall into place and some memories that emerge seem unrelated to much going on in Taeko’s adult life.  But it’s that randomness that makes the film feel so charming, so very real.

Taeko herself is an engaging character who will earn viewers’ sympathy with her dedication to hard work, her delight in beauty, and her spirit.  That spirit is somewhat hidden in the twenty-seven-year-old woman, but it emerges in Taeko’s recollections of herself as a fifth grader.  Quiet, easily embarrassed, and often childish and petulant, the fifth-grade Taeko still has hope in life.  She enjoys simple luxuries like a bath.  And she’s asking her future self to wake up and to move her life in a direction that will make her happy.

Fans of Studio Ghibli will want to check out Only Yesterday.  It is a heartfelt endeavor that emphasizes respect for the land and finding one’s self in nature.  At times the message may feel heavy-handed, but the message is sincere.  And it’s difficult not to want Taeko to buy into it and to find her happily ever after working on a farm.

4 stars


9 thoughts on “Movie Review: Only Yesterday (1991)

  1. Adam says:

    I love this movie, and I was very frustrated by the fact that it was one of the few not yet given a formal western release, until recently.
    It has the charming slow, quiet style that embodies many of Studio Ghibli’s earlier films. When so many movies strive to shake the world with the consequences of their plot, Studio Ghibli is perfectly content with the smaller scopes, the simple story of a handful of characters, struggling to understand themselves and each other.


    • Krysta says:

      Yes! You said that quite beautifully! I love the reflective quality of Studio Ghibli’s films. It’s often nice to have a quiet film, a sort of respite from the loud and busy blockbusters I’m used to.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Krysta says:

          I’m halfway through Wolf Children, which seems a little similar to a Studio Ghibli film. It’s about a single mother with her two wolf/human kids and their move to the countryside to hide their transformation abilities. The focus on the land and how to make a life in balance with nature is reminiscent of Only Yesterday. I also just borrowed The Red Turtle from the library, but haven’t watched it yet. But I’m excited!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Lianne @ says:

    Glad to hear you enjoyed this one! The pacing was a lot quieter and the message did seem a little heavy-handed at times, but I love the reminiscing and those quiet moments where Taeko was just in the moment.

    The only movie I have let to watch is Ocean Waves–I don’t think I even cracked open the DVD case yet! xD


    • Krysta says:

      Yes, it did seem slow even for a Studio Ghibli film! I enjoyed it, though! And I didn’t really get fidgety. I love The Wind Rises but that film really feels its length, at least to me!

      Ooh! I tried to get Ocean Waves from a neighboring library and they don’t lend it out! You will have to watch it for me and report back! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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