Only Yesterday | Healing the Inner Child

Only Yesterday is a film quite different from the usual Ghibli affair. Directed by Isao Takahata, Only Yesterday follows a woman named Taeko as she fulfils a childhood wish of visiting the more rural parts of Japan. Along her trip, she starts to recount nearly forgotten memories that trickle to the forefront.

Only Yesterday is a movie that makes my heart so happy every time I watch it. It is a tender film about the impact our childhoods leave on us and the core memories we bring with us throughout our lives. A film about a little girl who’s all grown up but still coming to terms with her life experiences and finding her place in this world.

The movie begins with our main lead, Taeko, as she proclaims to her employers and family alike that she’s taking a trip to the countryside, as she’s always wanted.

As Taeko fulfils her childhood dream, more childhood memories unfurl. Like sweet dreams, little parts of her memories spring to life. That boy she had an innocent crush on in primary school, the disappointingly unappealing taste of a pineapple and childish endeavours to avoid ‘yucky’ food all slowly flood her mind. Vivid, dreamy palettes sweep the screen as she indulges in the nostalgia.

She contemplates if these memories are being revealed to her along her journey because she senses an impending change happening. She begins to process these memories of a simpler time when life happened to her and she didn’t even know it.

When she reaches the countryside, Taeko is picked up by Toshio, a local farmer and the second cousin of her brother-in-law. She has a wonderful time picking safflowers, taking in the fresh air and sharing her childhood memories with her newfound friends.

Before long, she starts to remember the injustices she felt as a small child. After all, you can’t toss and turn in our bed without bringing back some unnerving thoughts. From the disrespect and disregard her sisters treated her with, to the never-ending echo of a single slap on the face from a cold and unsupportive father, the awful memories remain in her mind, clear as day.

These shreds of doubt about her worth that her family plant seep into her head in an insidious way. Subconsciously, she doesn’t trust herself. In her heart, she recognises her love for the countryside and feels a special connection with Toshio, but the thoughts come back. The self doubt creeps and she wonders if she’s faking it. She wonders if her feelings are real. She wonders if she’s pretending.

The imposter syndrome Taeko feels is calmed by Toshio. He shines a new perspective on a memory of a poor classmate she once had that haunts her and helps her reframe her outlook of the situation and her role in it.

The film ends with her trusting her desire to stay in the countryside. She allows herself to believe in her love of both the simple life and the charming smile of the boy who lives it. Her inner child leads her back to what her heart desires and she begins her new life as a farmer. Taeko finally dares to reach out to the life her little self dreamed of.

Even though our childhood memories have ups and downs – from memories of giddy happiness to heart-stabbing pain, we can accept that these things happened to us. We can look back with joy at the simple fun of being a kid. We can contemplate and make peace with upsetting memories on our own. We can face and process trauma with people we trust. And eventually, we can overcome the burden of painful childhood memories that drag us down.

I really, really love this film. It’s basically a therapy session in the form of a two-hour movie and I can’t recommend it enough, especially if you’re a woman in your 20s. There is a sense of peace and satisfaction this movie brings that I truly feel everyone should experience.


2 thoughts on “Only Yesterday | Healing the Inner Child

  1. Oo, this one sounds really good! I thought I was a pretty well rounded Ghibli fan, but I’ve never seen this one and I haven’t really heard much about this anime either. I’ll have to look this one up! thanks for the review, it’s pretty hard to find Ghibli films I haven’t already seen, so thanks for giving me something new to watch.

    Liked by 2 people

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