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Only Yesterday – a 1991 Studio Ghibli film just now getting its first U.S. release – approaches childhood with a beauty and intricacy rarely seen. Early on, the 27-year-old Taeko (voiced by Daisy Ridley) remembers a moment from elementary school, in which she had an interaction with one of her first crushes. The two talk about their favorite types of clouds, before they awkwardly walk away from each other. To the younger Taeko, this is a moment of pure bliss, filled with hearts and wide eyes. Yet Taeko remembers the scene in modern day, she still can recall the conversation word-for-word, before giggling in the silliness, shyness and embarrassment of her past self. Only Yesterday’s wonder is in the visualization of the past, the disappointments, the things that we wish we could go back and change and the strange turns that made our lives the way it is today.

Only Yesterday follows Taeko on a vacation to the countryside where she goes to help pick flowers. While on her journey, she suddenly starts to remember her days at school, wondering why the fifth grade person of herself is starting to become a part of her present. Taeko’s memories take us to learning about her periods at school, discovering that her parents don’t see her as a “normal child” and focusing on the kids in class that she seems to not have thought about in years.

In one such wonderful scene, Taeko’s family purchases a pineapple, which is an exciting treat since they only know the taste of canned pineapple. When the family finally cuts into the fruit, they are all put off by the surprisingly different taste. But despite this, Taeko continues to eat her piece, then her family’s shares, suffering through the disappointment, hoping that what she is missing will come to her eventually.

This is also very true of the 27-year-old Taeko, whose family questions why she’s still married and why she decides to help pick flowers on vacation, rather than allow herself some peace and luxury. As we learn more about Takeo, it seems as though she has a hard time getting rid of the past, trying to discover why she holds on to what has happened rather than moving forward.

Much like his supposed final film, 2013’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, director Isao Takahata takes on Only Yesterday as a tale of what we leave behind by growing older. Takeo’s memories are fractured, apropos of quick reminders of the past, but it’s hard not to see how these memories stick with her today, splintering her mind in a way that can’t allow her to let go.

Unlike many of Ghibli’s films – including Takahata’s own – Only Yesterday is hardly over-the-top, and becomes one of the more grounded films from the studio. But this focus on the real is wonderful and incredibly easy to relate to. Takeo’s memories feel like the experiences of someone who actually existed, and the way Takeo remembers these moments comes in an understandable wave of nostalgia and sorrow.

Decades before Inside Out showed how memories and our mind can dictate behavior, Only Yesterday is a personal, gorgeous tale of the past and how that influences our present and future. Its simple reminders sting of truth and the discomfort of memories that can’t be changed no matter how often we replay them in our head.

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