A tale about self-acceptance, this modest Studio Ghibli anime may take a while to get going, but it achieves some kind of emotional crescendo by its denouement.
Dir. Hiromasa Yonebayashi
2014 | Japan | Animation / Drama / Family | 103 mins | 1.85:1 | Japanese
PG (passed clean) for thematic elements and smoking
Cast: Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura, Nanako Matsushima
Plot: A sick girl called Anna forms a friendship with a local named Marnie while recuperating in a seaside town.
Awards: Nom. for Best Animated Feature (Oscars)
Source: Studio Ghibli
Subject Matter: Moderate – Connection
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Mainstream
From the director of The Secret World of Arrietty (2010), When Marnie Was There was at one point purported to be the final anime produced by Studio Ghibli. It is a pretty good piece, but of course nowhere near some of the finest that the studio has produced over the decades.
Still, Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s work should please most fans as it tries to capture the Ghibli magic with a tale about Anna, an asthma-stricken young girl with no friends who temporarily moves to the countryside to stay with the relatives of her guardian, hoping it will do her physical and mental health good.
As she engages in her hobby of sketching, she befriends a mysterious blonde girl named Marnie who lives in an empty marsh cottage opposite the local lake. Is she real, or a ghost?
“I hate myself.”
The film doesn’t give us any answers, but the mystery slowly unravels and achieves some kind of emotional crescendo by its denouement.
It may take a while for the plotting to get going, and sometimes the storytelling feels convoluted and seems to tie itself into a knot, but whenever Anna and Marnie are onscreen, there’s enough chemistry between the characters to make it all work.
When Marnie Was There is ultimately a tale about self-acceptance—through Anna’s lack of self-confidence and the fear of being ostracised, we see her grow into a happier human being. Sometimes it takes an unlikely spark (or simply a change in surroundings) to find the renewed desire and assurance to connect with another again.