This is another film by Isao Takahata, who directed the amazing Grave of the Fireflies and the okay Pom Poko (for which you can read my review here). Only Yesterday tells the story of a 27 year old office worker living in Tokyo as she returns to the country and reflects on her life.
It’s an interesting story but it didn’t quite grab me in the way Grave of the Fireflies did. It’s a very gentle-paced, reflective movie that didn’t really hit the emotional levels I was hoping. I’m around the same age as the main character, Taeko, and I empathize with her feelings about trying to find the place where she belongs but I couldn’t bring myself to actually care about her that much, and the things that happened in her life didn’t strike me as particularly noteworthy or special. The problem is that it just didn’t bring anything new to the table. I was mostly entertained and I liked the animation style (the flashbacks were done in a different style) but the story wasn’t quite there for me.
There were funny moments and there were one or two shocking ones, but overall I was just watching a movie about a young woman and I didn’t bring away anything new with me and it’s not one that lingers afterwards. Maybe some people will prefer the calmness of the film but I like a bit more melodrama to properly engage me and Only Yesterday didn’t have that.
But there were some good things. I loved the animation styles, I liked how they looked similar but yet were distinct, which showed the changes between the way children view the world and how we view the world as adults. The countryside looked beautiful too. One other thing that I loved and I’m not sure if many other films have done it before, none spring to mind at the moment, is that the film continued even after the credits started. I know some films show clips at the end but in this one actual important things happen, so if you turned off the film as the credits appeared you’d actually miss out on the ending of the film, and it was a stylistic touch that I appreciated.
Overall I think it’s a decent film but it’s not one I’d urge you to rush out and watch immediately.