Movie review of “Only Yesterday”: This typically gorgeous 1991 Studio Ghibli release is making its U.S. debut, overdubbed in English and featuring a compelling vocal performance by Daisy Ridley. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
Though released in Japan in 1991, anime powerhouse Studio Ghibli’s “Only Yesterday” is only now playing on U.S. movie screens, in time for the film’s 25th anniversary.
Not surprisingly, this domestic version of “Only Yesterday” has been overdubbed by English-speaking actors. Usually that would be a minor annoyance for grown-up fans of Ghibli’s gorgeous, masterful features, which work best in their original, Japanese-language editions.
But this time a lead vocal performance by overnight “Star Wars” superstar Daisy Ridley is so engaging, insightful and finely nuanced that one can’t complain. For once, an overdub is a treat.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Only Yesterday,’ with the voices of Daisy Ridley, Dev Patel, Ashley Eckstein, Grey Griffin. Written and directed by Isao Takahata, based on the manga by Hotaru Okamoto and Yuko Tone. 118 minutes. Rated PG for thematic elements, smoking, rude behavior. SIFF Cinema Uptown.
Written and directed by Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata (whose “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” was nominated for an Oscar last year), “Only Yesterday” is a touching, introspective portrait of a 27-year-old office worker, Taeko (Ridley), whose vacation on her relatives’ country farm stirs vivid memories of her childhood.
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The diffident character is particularly haunted by her experiences during fifth grade (Ashley Eckstein voices the younger Taeko), a period when she seemed ill-fitting in her family as well as at school. Not quite one of the cool girls on campus and something of an afterthought at home to her emotionally repressed mother (Grey Griffin), little Taeko has invisible scars and pangs of guilt for not understanding the pain of more extreme outcasts.
A pure character study of a young adult coming to terms with her life, “Only Yesterday” has none of the more fanciful elements often associated with such Ghibli titles as “Princess Kaguya” and Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away.”
But it is another sumptuous visual feast from the studio, full of endless images finely detailed and often lavish. Check out those fields of flowers, all painstakingly hand-drawn in traditional animation. They’ll take your breath away.