Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Kiernan Shipka, John C. Reilly
In what might be Studio Ghibli’s final film, following the retirement of famed director Hayao Miyazaki, we are treated once again to animated brilliance with When Marnie Was There. Studio Ghibli has been a source of top-notch Japanese animation since the 80s, with a succession of international hits beginning in 1997 and continuing to today. Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Tales from Earthsea, Ponyo, Arrietty, The Wind Rises, and now When Marnie Was There; award-winning, breathtaking, wonderful adaptations, brilliant originality. This studio has produced some of the best & cleanest animation to ever grace the screen, and the cinematic world will be much less bright if they close their doors for good.
Young Anna feels alone & anxious in a life that never seemed to want her. Living in foster care, she never knew her parents, was raised by a grandmother, and was given up into custody when she was very small. Though her “Auntie” loves her very much, Anna has never felt secure, needed, liked, enjoyed, and so can’t completely fit in. Following an asthma attack that seems coupled with the beginnings of a panic attack as well, Anna is sent to spend the summer in the country with “relatives”, a very sweet couple who will let her roam free and breathe the air of that beautiful place. Soon, Anna stumbles across an abandoned mansion that can only be reached at low tide, but which seems to transport her into the world of another girl, a pretty child named Marnie, who sees Anna as an apparition as well. Who is Marnie, is she real, how is she connected to Anna, and what has she been brought to teach her?
Marnie is just another impeccable Ghibli feature that brings their patented animation to our screens and delights us with a heart-warming story. The colors, clarity, and simplicity of this style have captured my heart, and I love sharing these films with my kids, movies that are so very different from the Disney or Pixar merchandise vehicles that we’ve come to expect. Marnie is pleasant to view, to watch, and to experience, capping off a solid filmography if this is indeed Ghibli’s final picture. Now, I will say that I enjoyed Ponyo a bit more, while enjoying Arrietty even more than that, so I can’t say that Marnie has been my favorite. It is a bit slow sometimes, a bit repetitive, but has a depth of emotion that compliments it well and an ending that makes your time worth-while. Watch with confidence, though judge your own child as to whether they will like a dubbed, slow-burning, Japanese, non-hero film, or whether they’ll need a few years to grow into it.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆