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Film Review: When Marnie was There

 

In a vital step for the future of the company, Studio Ghibli released When Marnie Was There in Japan on 19 July 2014. This was the first film to be released following the retirement of the two founders of the studio, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.

When Marnie Was There is an adaptation of English writer Joan G. Robinson’s book of the same name. The story is relocated from the Norfolk Broads to the Hokkaido countryside and follows a young, introverted girl, Anna, who struggles with asthma and lack of self-confidence. She is sent to the countryside by her adoptive mother to try to improve her health.

She soon meets the ghost of another young girl, Marnie, who once lived in the mysterious Marsh House. Gradually Anna and Marnie discover more about each other’s lives and the audience watches Anna’s confidence grow.

Marnie is the second directorial effort from Hiromasa Yonebayashi. His debut, Arrietty, was also based on an English children’s novel, this time the more well known The Borrowers by Mary Norton.

Marnie continues the trend in Ghibli’s work to move away from high fantasy, despite the ghostly inclusions, and grapples with very real issues, such as mental health in teenagers.

The story will keep you guessing the truth and leave you in tears when it is revealed. The slow progression brings you along with it and immerses you into Anna’s present life and Marnie’s past.

With Marnie, Studio Ghibli has shown that it can still achieve far more than simply clinging to the ghosts of its past successes. Fans will be relieved to know there is a talented young director ready to take to reins if they return to making feature films.

When Marnie Was There was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2015 and will be released in UK cinemas on June 10.

Written by Elizabeth Lee Reynolds

 

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