When Marnie Was There is the latest animated film from the wonderful Studio Ghibli, who have made such films as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya. It could potentially be their final film, as legendary director Hayao Miyazaki has retired and the studio has announced a hiatus.
Moving to the film specifically and it is an adaptation of an English novel set in Norfolk. In the film we follow a young girl named Anna who moves to the Japanese countryside for the summer because she suffers from asthma and is unhappy in her life, feeling excluded and unloved. In the village she meets and befriends a young girl named Marnie who helps her to open up about her problems. As well as that we are presented something of a mystery as to who Marnie is, because at times the mansion she lives in appears abandoned, and at others she lives there and elaborate parties are thrown. The scenes with Marnie always have such a fantastical quality, time is not consistent, and the world is different.
The story is a very lovely and moving one. It shows that not all films need huge amounts of plot; instead a very simple heartfelt story that focuses on characters can be just as strong. However it does have some issues. I understand that it is a film generally aimed at kids, but the ending of the film really leans heavily on exposition to explain everything to the audience, when I don’t think it need as much of it as we get. But that doesn’t detract too much from what was a very emotional experience, that left me, and I’m sure many others with tears in their eyes. It is a story that many teens will be able to empathise with as it can be common for adolescents to feel alone and alienated, whilst still having that fantastical edge that Studio Ghibli has built many of its films upon.
I love the animation style that Studio Ghibli always brings to their films. I’m really not an expert in animation, but When Marine Was There is a beautiful film to look at. The animation is so vibrant it really brings the setting, which is a crucial part of this film, to life. Unfortunately when I went I was unable to see a subtitled version, which is my preferred way of watching these films, and instead had to settle for the dubbed version. But the voice cast, particularly Hailee Steinfeld as Anna, do an excellent job. One final thing that does have to be said is that the score and use of music in When Marnie Was There is fantastic. Not only the use of music, but the use of silence is equally as powerful at times.
On the whole When Marnie Was There doesn’t quite reach the heights of the Studio Ghibli’s best work, but it is still a beautiful and moving piece that deserves to be seen. And if it proves to be so, then it will be a strong last film for the studio to go out on.