I’d like to talk about this movie…
“Only Yesterday” was created by Studio Ghibli in 1991, and was just recently dubbed in English, with Daisy Ridley voicing the lead role. I watched this movie for the first time this year and it’s become a favourite for 2016 because it resonated so well with me… I easily related to the main character, Taeko, particularly in this year. I do not watch anime, however Studio Ghibli’s work is – and will always be – an exception.
This movie, as with any movie out there, can be interpreted differently for each person. However, I’ll explain how I interpreted the movie for myself…
*If you’d like to see this movie for yourself, be warned there are spoilers. Also, pictures from the movie are not mine.*
Taeko is a woman in her late 20’s, who has a stable job, a passable income, is living on her own, and single. She is quite accomplished for her age and she is proud, however there is a void in her life needing to be filled (and she does not understand what it is yet). Taeko takes a 10-day holiday off work to harvest safflower in the country at her brother-in-law’s family’s farm. Once her boss gives her the OK, we begin to delve deep into Taeko’s story. Prepping for the trip, she begins to reminisce on childhood memories. She’s reminded of her passions as a child.
Throughout the movie, Taeko explores her growth to help her understand the void she needs to fill in order to be ultimately content with her life (or as content as possible). What was missing then in her life and what is she missing now? Or what did she have then that she lost along the way? She notices that as a child, she was passionate, full of hope, and aspirations. Her behaviours were reflective of raw emotions. Her interests and strengths were unlike her peers (and unlike what her parents desired). As Taeko grew, she lost sight and grasp of that integral part of her personality. Instead of following her dreams, she succumbed to the norm in order to land a stable job and pay (it’s likely that’s what her parents encouraged her to do).
Ultimately, Taeko realises that she did not fulfill the desires of her childhood-self. At some point during her trip, Taeko is presented with an opportunity that could change the course of her life: she could remain in the country (a place that she’s been fond of since childhood), or she could return to her old life and job. This time, the decision is all on her, with no-one around to influence her.
At first she chooses the latter option out of comfort and familiarity, but once she is on her way home, the voice of her childhood-self becomes apparent. Taeko is finally led by raw desire this time to remain in the country.
Taeko fills the void in the sense that she’s reintegrated her former (true) self in her life (and in a life-changing decision).
This movie stood out to me because I’ve felt lost like Taeko for some time. As a child, I was interested in art. I would write fictional tales, I would draw, I would play piano… I would immerse myself in just about anything that involved utilizing my imagination. I carried this creative streak into high school, by taking art classes, dance, drama, media studies, and more. In my spare time at home, I would continue to write stories, just so that I could improve my writing skills.
Once University hit, I had no time (or desire to be perfectly honest) for hobbies. I worked part-time at a soccer facility, while juggling 5 full-time courses… There just was no time or room for me. After my 2nd year in University, I was fully aware that I’d lost myself. Fast forward to a month before graduation, when I’d landed a job (out of the blue) as an Administrative Assistant for a broker… Little did I know at the time that I’d turned the page to a significant chapter in my life, because to this day, I continue to be a part of the financial world. Did I ever think I’d get there? No. Am I grateful? Yes. But am I also wishing I was doing more? Yes.
I too, like Taeko, want to fulfill the desires of my childhood-self. For some reason, I feel it is my calling is to write a novel. I say it now and I laugh. I laugh because I feel it is completely unrealistic and impossible, as I know nada of what it means to be writer. I have no professional skills and I have no valuable experience… All I have is a feeling – kind of like Taeko’s when she sat on that bus and pondered her next steps.
Taeko teaches a valuable lesson in the movie: it’s imperative that you get off that bus and leap towards the unpredictable opportunity, because no matter how scary it can be, if it feels right, that’s usually because it is right.