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Only Yesterday (1991, dubbed 2016 aka Omoide Poro Poro) has long been a difficult film for me to review. There are times when I love it, times when I’ll go “meh” and stop the disc playing.

In that sense it is emblematic of Isao Takahata as a film maker. To be honest Takahata deals with a wider range of topics than Hayao Miyazaki, and with a wider range of techniques. However this can sometimes make Takahata’s work confronting (Grave of the Fireflies), pompous (Pom Poko), or just difficult to connect to (My Neighbours the Yamadas).

That’s not to say that any of those films are bad, just that I find them harder to connect to than what I think may be Takahata’s masterpiece The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.

That said, the recent dub of starring Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel goes a long way to making Only Yesterday a much more accessible film, and it is still a film that stands up well in the cinema.

In one respect the dub was an odd experience for me. Most of the dubs I’ve listened to over the years have been American, which Ms Ridley and Mr Patel are very definitely not. The English accents won me over fairly quickly though, and Ms Ridley delivers a sterling performance in the lead as Taeko. Alison Fernandez plays the younger Taeko, and also delivers a strong performance.

In terms of story Only Yesterday is an odd mix of reminiscence, romance, and rural life as Taeko seeks to connect to the land whilst also resolving the issues of her 10 year old self. It’s in the course of coming to know herself that Taeko comes to love Toshio albeit in a fairly understated way.

Only Yesterday can, at times, be a fairly sparse film with a slow pace. I think this is why sometimes I won’t be in the mood to watch it, and sometimes why the film speaks me on a much deeper level. The dub may have inserted additional narration[1] by Taeko to address this, and I think it worked well[2].

Visually it still stands up well on the big screen, and is currently in limited release in Australia. Recommended, see it if you can.

[1] Some of the dialogue seemed to be additional, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen the original version. So I could well be wrong on this.

[2] Assuming that it is in fact additional dialogue.