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When Marnie Was There Review

Posted by admin on June 16, 2015


It’s a shame that Studio Ghibli is going to stop making movies. While they never exactly said that they’re done for good, it seems that with the legendary Hayao Miyazaki retiring, the studio knows that it needs to figure out what it going to do without their master at the head. I can understand their fear that they may not be able to go on without Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli has brought some of the greatest animated movies to the rest of the world, and not to mention has given Americans two things that we don’t do for our own movies.

First of all, the most obvious; the animation. Ghibli was keen on keeping their movies with a hand drawn look despite the advancing technology of computers and how every studio in America makes their animated movies in realistic CGI. There’s still a beauty within it’s high detail of paint and ink. The other difference is the tone. While most animated movies from America tend to go with louder that it’s audiences want, Ghibli makes their movies quieter. The stories still feel large, but often their movies will focus on the smaller stories of life like moving or making friends. When Marnie Was There is a testament to friendship.

The quiet twelve-year-old Anna (played by Haliee Steinfeld) is that girl we’ve all known to be so shy, that she shuts everyone out and has no friends. She even shuts out her foster parent Yoriko (played by Genna Davis) when it’s found out that she gets money from the government to look after Anna.

Anna suffers an asthma attack at school, so her parent sends her to relatives living in a rural seaside town to give her better air to breathe. It seems like a nice summer break, but Anna would rather not be a burden to anyone.

She arrives with open arms from Kiyomasa (played by John C. Reilly) and Setsu, but still seems a bit closed off. They try to set Anna on a outing with a neighbor kid, but that proves to be a failure. When strolling through the town, she grows an attachment to an abandoned marsh mansion. She rows there one night to find a girl her age named Marnie, who lives there with her nanny. The once abandoned house is now a majestic home by the sea. As Anna meets up with Marnie more often, she starts to feel a closer connection then with anyone she’s ever known.

Studio Ghibli could have gone out with an epic, grand adventure to close off their stories, but When Marie Was There both something subtle, yet big. What I mean from that is that the story puts more time with the friendship of Anna and Marnie then the mystery that surrounds the movie. The scenes between the two are beautiful. Part of me wishes that the story could have been more focused on that then the more supernatural element in place. It’s not that the mystery is bad, but it is really hard to follow.

It took me time to figure out if Anna was really seeing Marnie or if Anna is the ghost of Marnie’s world or what. I think Studio Ghibli was trying to make the most complex story to go around the friendship, but it comes off like an art-house wannabe.

The good news is that like its other movies, When Marnie Was There has great characters and a nice atmosphere. Anna may be an introvert, but we understand her personality enough to like and wish she could connect with people. The town she stays in is so quaint that it reminds me of my favorite vacation grounds, Laguna Beach.


I’ll give this four abandoned mansions out of five. It’s not the best Ghibli movie, but a nice one to end on. I hope that Ghibli manages to return to continue bringing it’s beautiful looking stories to America. We’re not going to do it, so Japan might as well stick around with this. If you’re a Ghibli fan, see it. If not, see some other Ghibli movies first before catching this one. 


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