Only Yesterday is a feature animation written and directed by Isao Takahata with animation by Studio Ghibli. This film was made in the early 90s based on the Manga of the same name. The film traces the story of Taeko, who travels home somewhere in the rural countryside to visit her family and help with the annual harvest. She has been living in the big city (Tokyo) for a long time and she wishes to get away from the hustle and bustle of it all. The trip home brings back memories of her childhood and forces her to confront the choices she has made regarding career, freedom and family. The simplicity of rural living reminds her of what she left behind long ago and she begins to bond with a cousin whom she barely knew before.
The film is quite pertinent even after quarter of a century from the date of its first release, since it speaks to the dilemma we all have or will grapple with at some point in our lives. The world is ever-changing and people are flocking to big cities in search of a better life. However, the more we populate large urban centres and bring together millions in high rises and boxed up spaces we call homes, the closer we come to realizing that this is not the life we wanted, nor bargained for. Through a simple visit back to her village, Taeko is forced to confront the life-changing choices she made and what really holds meaning for her.
The film was considered very bold and progressive for the time it was made for having a woman as its protagonist. I find that too hasn’t really changed and even in 2016 we struggle with issues of gender, racial, economic and all forms of social inequalities.
The film didn’t get an international release for many years and has only recently been released in North America. This is a simple, thoughtful film that perhaps will resonate with the self-reflecting people, who wonder where we are headed and why.