Oscar-nominated director Isao Takahata (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya) and general producer Hayao Miyazaki worked together on 1991's Only Yesterday, an animated film about 27-year-old Taeko, a woman who's spent her whole life in Tokyo. Taeko, however, has always had a real nostalgia for the countryside, and for her "vacation" she heads to the countryside to work on a farm and pick flowers. It provides a nice change of pace from her desk job.
The coming-of-age film, which opens on Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre, has only now received a North American theatrical release with this new, Studio Ghibli-produced, English-language version in celebration of its 25th anniversary. Beautifully drawn, the movie presents a strong (if heavy-handed) message about using nature as a way to explore the self.
Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens') is the voice of Taeko in this new version.
When Taeko arrives at the train station, she gets a ride to the farm from a bumbling young farmer Toshio (Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel), and the two become friends. Being in the countryside triggers something in Taeko, and she regularly has flashbacks to her childhood, recalling everything from the nasty cafeteria food she used to have to eat at school to the struggles she had with fractions. She also remembers the time when her stern father refused to let her act in the school play.
The trip to the countryside ultimately proves rather cathartic, and Toshio helps facilitate Taeko's reawakening. He talks about farming with the passion of a philosopher, making Taeko realize that she loves the countryside so much because she has always felt connected to nature, even though she didn't grow up in a rural environment. He takes her to remote mountaintops and teaches her how to milk a cow. It all comes off as an advertisement for the advantages of living the simple life.