Starring: Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura, Hana Sugisaki
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Running Time: 102 mins
When Marnie Was There is a Japanese film about an extremely introverted young girl who is sent to the countryside, where she is drawn to a mysterious mansion by the shore and the girl who lives inside it.
This is an absolutely wonderful film, and a fantastic way to send off one of the greatest film studios of all time if this really is Ghibli’s last. It’s got classically beautiful animation, a touching story and a wonderful score, which all comes together to make a hugely enjoyable and engaging film, even if it’s not as powerful as some of Ghibli’s greatest.
We forget sometimes that may Studio Ghibli movies are in fact family films, but When Marnie Was There is an excellent demonstration of how amazing they are at making intelligent and compelling films that absolutely anyone can watch and adore.
The story is largely about a young girl, Anna, facing up to her own problems in life through her growing friendship with Marnie, the mysterious girl she meets when gazing over at the mansion by the sea. At times, this does go into darker territory about children feeling lonely or abandoned, which will definitely be tough watching for younger viewers, but the prevailing emotion of this film is a happy one.
That’s not to say that it definitely ends on a happy note, but the friendship that Anna and Marnie develop over the course of this film is absolutely beautiful. Much like childhood favourites such as My Neighour Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and more, this is a Ghibli film that will touch you and warm your heart with its delightful story. It reminds you that, even when there are real downs in life, there’s always a way out, and the way that we see the introverted Anna become happier and more confident as she grows closer to Marnie is just wonderful.
Now, there is one big flaw that I do have with this story, however, and that’s the fact that it’s just not as emotionally powerful as some of the greatest Ghibli movies. It’s definitely touching, but in its final act, which is really focussed on making a heart-wrenching emotional rollercoaster, it doesn’t always pay off, and often gets lost in a bit of a convoluted and overly-mysterious ending.
But despite that, there’s still so much to adore about this film. I don’t need to say it, but I will anyway: the animation is absolutely gorgeous, and some of the wide landscape shots are jaw-droppingly beautiful to look at. Meanwhile, the music is just as poetic as you’d expect from Studio Ghibli, and really adds to the pleasant and heartwarming atmosphere of the film.
Overall, When Marnie Was There is an excellent film. It may not be the most emotionally powerful we’ve ever seen from Studio Ghibli, but it’s an intelligent, touching and stunningly beautiful film that, if this really is the end of Ghibli, sums up everything that we’ve loved about the studio over the years, and that’s why it gets a 7.6 from me.