Omohide Poro Poro (Japan 1991)

Rating: ****
Alternate Titles: Only Yesterday, Memories Of Teardrops, Memories Of Yesterday
Review Date: 9/27/01

Another superb slice of life drama from Studio Ghibli, that's both heart warming and heartbreaking at the same time. The film chronicles a woman's ten day trip to the Japanese countryside, which invokes a flood of childhood memories from fifth grade. Despite the cruelties and harsh injustices of growing up and living in the shadow of two older sisters, Taeko is a well adjusted and seemingly happy woman with a satisfactory and well paying job in the big city. But something's missing in her life... Her mother desperately wants her to get married, but she's obviously not interested in men. When she gets to her destination, she meets up with a distant cousin (Toshio) and the two of them spend their days talking, telling stories, reminiscing about their childhoods, and doing lots of hands-on farmwork. As we walk through Taeko's memories, we're treated to a very real account of those young formative years and can experience them simultaneously as both young Taeko and as grown-up Taeko looking back on them. We see how these events in the past have shaped Taeko into the woman she is today and give us an extremely deep and personal understanding of her personality and psyche. (the segment on dividing fractions is utterly brilliant) It also paints a fascinating portrait of contemporary Japanese society from a female perspective. I've rarely seen this accomplished so well in any other film. The film is long and lazily, but purposefully, meanders through Taeko's current and past experiences until the dramatic climax at the end of her stay. The tearful conclusion has Taeko finally letting go of her child self and "growing up" - the caterpillar has finally emerged from its cocoon and become a butterfly. It's something that we all fight, and it's always sad to see it go. This film hits WAY too close to home for comfort and is downright creepy in its perceptive and penetrating narrative. Nice work. Oh yeah, and the animation is great too.