Only Yesterday (1991)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Anime  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Americans tend to think of animated films as being "kid's stuff," and so may very well be floored if they happen upon Only Yesterday. Even more "adult" cartoons like Fritz the Cat are still essentially juvenile; the situations may be more adult, but the basic language is typical. Yesterday comes from a whole different perspective; it's a slice of life drama, although a gentle, meditative one that doesn't depend upon the sometimes unnaturally imposed dramatic situations that often come with that genre. This is literally a slice of life: a visit to a woman's world at a very particular point in time -- or more correctly, at two very particular points in time, with the earlier time deeply informing the present time. As such, Yesterday is much less concerned with an action-oriented plot and much more concerned with character. Nuance is everything here, and it is a very big everything: the slightest arch of an eyebrow takes on depth and meaning, although that the exact meaning may be left ambiguous. Yesterday] is quite literally a journey through a woman's soul, but it's nowhere near as either simple or as pretentious as that sounds. It's the kind of film that gives the viewer a fantastic glow while at the same time wounding his/her heart in the process. Director/animator {$Isao Takahata's achievement here is gloriously human and humane, much more affecting than many so-called "real life" pictures. Those interested in challenging animated films, or simply in superb films of any sort, must watch Yesterday.