Yesteday, Aussie Ninja's troubles seemed so far away
Sat, 22 September 2007
by: Australian Ninja
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The problem with having favourite films is that every time I watch another Studio Ghibli film it becomes my new favourite. It kind of renders the word favourite meaningless when every Studio Ghibli film takes my breath away.
Still, I can't complain about being thoroughly entertained by this whimsical and insightful film, Only Yesterday. This gem was directed by Isao Takahata, well known for his Anime film Grave of the Fireflies.
Although Only Yesterday is a light hearted film that ambles along at a leisurely pace, it still manages to explore themes such as love, work, family relationship struggles, following your dreams and country versus city living.
In the film, the main character Taeko decides to take a working vacation in the country, getting away from her office bound job and unexpectedly starts to recapture her life as a ten year old girl. During her train trip to the country she starts reliving memories of her days at school; the awkwardness of adolescence, sibling rivalry and childhood innocence.
|Azure skies and fields of endless green |
This leads Taeko to wonder if the ten year old in her is wiser than her present twenty-seven year old self, and is perhaps trying to tell her something. As she works picking benibana flowers (used for making rouge) and developing new friendships, she reflects on her life thus far and starts to appreciate country living.
She remembers as a child she always wanted to visit the countryside, and was jealous of the other school kids who would visit relatives during the school holidays. Now faced with the reality of a working holiday in the country, she begins to wonder if she could adjust to living this way all the time, as she finds it so refreshing and fulfilling compared to city living. During her stay with her distant relatives she develops new friendships and further reminisces about her childhood, told via more flashbacks that alternate with the present throughout the film.
One reason I particularly enjoyed Only Yesterday, was that it doesn't try to be some fantastical adventure full of excitement - it's more a brief window into Taeko's life, where you get to see the world through her eyes and memories. This contrast's well with the Miyazaki directed high adventure / fantasy films. Isao Takahata's earthy, sentimental style brings a light warmheartedness that on further inspection contains more serious issues. The same could be said of Miyazaki's films, but the differences when watching films directed by the two Anime veterans are subtle, yet obvious.
The trademark small moments and long pauses Studio Ghibli is known for are used to great effect here in this film. Long (sometimes almost static) shots of ordinary things happening (or not happening) lend a slow Zen-like tranquility and peacefulness to the film.
|Dreamy summer days, the kind that make you feel good to be alive |
Combined with the soft watercolour style artwork and meticulous detail used in countryside panoramas Only Yesterday immerses you effortlessly into a world and way of life soon to be forgotten due to technological progress.
The simple rural Japan farming lifestyle that provides hard work for the body in a naturally beautiful environment with no room for the mundane to creep in. Set in the early eighties, before modern technology eclipsed traditional farming methods, there is a kind of sentimental (but genuine) sympathy developed for Taeko's character and her desire to experience new things, and find some meaning in her life.
Only Yesterday is a relaxing and hopeful film to watch, that narrowly dodges the 'guy meets girl' romance cliché of many films by giving equal focus to other themes. It's unapologetically sentimental, but in the best kind of way that really pulls at your heart, but not in a manipulative way as it could have been.
This Anime film is another superb effort from Studio Ghibli that I highly recommend. But then I have yet to find a Studio Ghibli film that I would not highly recommend (Here's hoping I don't have to renege on that statement when I review Tales from Earthsea very soon!)
by: Australian Ninja
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Pleasing as much to the eyes as the heart, Only Yesterday is a mature film that will resonate with you at a level most other films can only dream of