Only Yesterday follows a 27-year-old Tokyo office worker Taeko, who escapes to the countryside for a break from the incessant demands to settle down and marry. Throughout the trip, she finds herself increasingly nostalgic and longing for her childhood self, while simultaneously wrestling with adult issues of career and love.
Written and directed by Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, Tale of Princess Kaguya), the film takes us across two different timelines. While the 1982 setting is the primary storyline of film, Taeko's memories of 1966 often break through to the present—memories of her 10-year-old self, dealing with the universal troubles of school and family life. These flashes of her childhood inform her adult psyche, sometimes in the middle of a thought or sentence.
"Perhaps my fifth grade self is trying to tell me a new way to fly."
—Taeko, Only Yesterday
While it's remarkably different from the often whimsical and colorful world of Studio Ghibli's works, its simple storyline is immensely relatable in how it portrays the crisis of adulthood: the feeling of being a fraud; of time running out; of wondering if you’ve left your youth behind; childhood dreams and all. It asks us not to mourn what might or might not have happened, but to keep those memories close, and use them to move forward.
Only Yesterday is now available for streaming on Netflix and Google Play.