At its most powerful the medium of film has the strength to transcend itself from screen into our consciousness, awakening those dormant areas of our past we didn’t even know were asleep. Isao Takahata‘s 1991 masterpiece (a word I do not use lightly) Only Yesterday is such a film.
Prior to seeing this there lived an envious side of me that would reveal its jealous face whenever my girlfriend reminisced in colorful detail one of her many stories from when she was in elementary school. I had elementary school memories as well, but for the life of me, could not recollect more than a handful of them, yet alone illuminate them in a way Kristiana (my main squeeze) could.
This was not due to any lack of trying, mind you. Nor was it because I felt I had something to hide, or from purposely blocking out parts of my past deemed to painful to revisit.
I simply could not call upon a new memory from Park Avenue (name of my elementary school) at the drop of a hat. Sure, I had my share of childhood memories, but mine were more like personalized urban legends and less of an authentic reminiscing. My girlfriend, on the other hand, is able to reminisce endlessly about her elementary school – and she does it in such colorful detail too.
This brings me to the theme at the heart of this movie; the importance of taking one’s personal past seriously and the wisdom and clarity that can be unearthed if taken the time to dig up the truths which make us who we truly are. Bringing this theme into fruition by see-sawing between 5th grader Taeko and her 27-year-old future self, Only Yesterday will forever leave a lasting and profound impression on me.
I never truly believed a movie can be “life changing“, in the truest meaning of those words, I now know differently.