A little while ago, I dedicated my evenings to winding down with a Studio Ghibli movie. The animated movies that are produced by this Japanese film studio are poignant. They often have powerful statements and touching morals, presented in subtle and peaceful ways.
I personally love the visuals in each film. Whether the plot is a fantasy or a story of realism, there is an element of nature and colour in each film that really captivates you and takes you into a mesmerizing paradise for the hour and a half that you’re watching.
The most notable films include My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away, each which have been dubbed with English voice actors, but the film that I was recently most affected by was one called Only Yesterday.
This is the story of Taeko, who is 27, unmarried, and working with little passion in a company in Tokyo. She is about to leave for a trip to a farm in the countryside of Japan, a region in which she’d fantasized about as a young girl, where she will assist with the fieldwork and pick safflower.
As she boards the train and travels to her destination, the movie flips between flashbacks of her as a young ten year old girl and her present life. There are many pivotal moments from her childhood that she reflects on and analyzes at this later point in her life where she feels a lack of purpose. She recalls her life as a school girl, dealing with her first crush, the curiosity of puberty, the challenges of academics, and her personal family dynamic.
Arriving at the farm, we’re introduced to new characters and the beautiful scenes of Japan’s agricultural landscape. We're given a wonderful Eastern European soundtrack, while in the fields, of Romanian, Hungarian and Bulgarian folk music. And for Taeko, she gets a break from her city life and is the most at ease. Perhaps, an optimistic shift for her.
One of my favourite quotes from the film is Taeko's metaphoric reflection on her life:
"Like it or not, a caterpillar must first live as a chrysalis before becoming a butterfly. Maybe I remember those days because I am going through a chrysalis stage again."
To say the least, it is a coming of age story. It’s slow paced, not in a way that will bore you, but rather, in a delicious way. So many innocent moments of growing up are captured in this movie and placed parallel to the critical state of an adult’s life in need for change. The contrast of childhood to adulthood is enough to pull at anyone’s heartstrings.
I viewed the film in Japanese with English subtitles. Watching films with subtitles makes sure that I’m extra attentive, since that’s something I struggle with. And Japanese is a beautiful language to listen to.
But for your convenience, here is an English trailer: