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Posted November 19, 2015 by MikeD in Animated

When Marnie Was There – A (last?) beautiful, touching film from Studio Ghibli


Written by:  Joan G. Robinson (Novel), Keiko Niwa (Screenplay), Masashi Ando (Screenplay), and Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Adapted English screenplay by: David Freedman

Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Starring (Voices): Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura, Nanako Matsushima, Hailee Steinfeld, Kiernan Shipka, and John C. Reilly

Studio Ghibli, and it’s creator Hayao Miyazaki , have created some of the greatest animated films in history. Characterized by beautiful animation, wildly imaginative stories, and deeply relatable protagonists Ghibli and it’s films have been really the standard in family animation (Sorry, Disney, it’s true) for three decades. It is these facts that make it incredibly sad to hear that it’s latest film “When Marnie Was There” may also be it’s last. After the brilliant Miyazaki retired in 2014, the company halted any further production of films and has yet to confirm or deny the rumor that the studio is indeed closed for good. If it is, the film world will suffer a huge loss. In the mean time, let’s talk about “Marnie”.

For many years, Studio Ghibli have based their films on young heroes going on fantastic voyages and meeting strange, mystical beings. In recent years though they have gone to a more subtly fantasy-based film model. Films like “From Up on Poppy Hill” and Miyazaki’s final masterpiece “The Wind Rises” are more serious in tone and grounded in reality than say “Howl’s Moving Castle” which featured among other things a talking flame, a walking castle, and a living scarecrow with a turnip for a head.

In “When Marnie Was Here” (directed by “The Secret World of Arrietty director Hiromasa Yonebayashi), the story focuses on Anna a twelve year old foster child who is introverted and feels like she doesn’t belong. A shy tomboy, Anna is often off in the corner sketching and trying not to think about how different she feels from her peers and how disgusted she is with herself for being the way she is. “I hate myself” she declares, in the movie’s opening scene. Admittedly, this is one of Ghibli’s darker protagonists. There is an honesty in that though as many children who grow up in foster care can feel alienated and less wanted than their schoolmates and friends.

After suffering multiple asthma attacks, Anna’s foster parents decide to send her to stay with some relatives, in a quiet coastal town where the air is fresh and the scenery beautiful. Soon, Anna meets a mysterious, adventure-loving girl named Marnie who lives in an isolated mansion on the other side of a marsh. The two quickly become close friends, and Anna begins to realize that she is capable of both giving and receiving unconditional love.


As the two girls develop an unbreakable bond, the lines between reality and dreams blur and Anna begins to suspect that Marnie may be a ghost or a figment of her tormented imagination. With the help of a little girl, who she meets, and the discovery of Marnie’s diary Anna sets out to discover the truth of the person who she loves more than anyone. Beautifully animated the tale of Anna and Marnie is one of true, pure friendship and something worthy of the Ghibli name.



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