Cinema Review | When Marnie Was There


Directed by |  Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Produced by | Geoffrey Wexler (Eng. Version)
Screenplay by | Joan G. Robinson (Novel) Keiko Niwa, Masashi Ando & Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Starring | Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura & Nanako Matsushima
Run Time | 1h 43mins
Certificate | U

Plot |  An adolescent girl who suffers from physical and emotional issues spends a summer living with her aunt and uncle in a rural Japanese village. During this time she becomes infatuated with a lakeside mansion which is home to a mysterious girl.

Review | Studio Ghibli’s future may be in some doubt following the latest attempt at retirement by it’s founding father Hayao Miyazaki, but one thing that isn’t, is the strength of the spirit that runs through these wonderful films. When Marnie Was There is the latest export from this iconic house of anime and it proves that there has been no loss of imagination since Miyazaki boarded his cat bus.

Meet Anna. A quiet 12 year old girl who finds herself away from home for the first time and lost in life. She has a bit of all of us in her, she’s a nostalgic gateway, asking herself a question that we all asked ourselves at that age – who am I?

As she sets out to discover the answer she becomes drawn towards an old mansion that overlooks a lake. Anna’s world turns inside out as she begins to dream of a girl who lives there. A pretty blonde haired, blue eyed girl called Marnie. After plucking up the courage to investigate for herself, Anna discovers that Marnie does indeed live there, but is she real or just a manifestation of her subconscious?

Anna becomes enthralled in Marnie’s world, experiencing a wealth of emotions along the way. The interactions are touching and enigmatic as Anna finds herself seemingly waking from them at random moments.

This isn’t a fairytale, neither is it a journey through the looking glass. It is magical and it is hypnotic but that is down to the power of the story telling. The film keeps you guessing as you watch Anna try to solve the puzzle in front of her.


Ghibli has repeatedly put young female characters at the heart of their stories and it works here once again. The writers of this film need congratulating for the ways in which they tackle the tricky pre-adolescent subject matter. Anna suffers from chronic anxiety as well as asthma, a combination of which throws up feelings of isolation, rejection and anonymity. For a film with a universal rating these emotions are communicated perfectly through Anna’s monologues and conversations with Marnie.

The only real criticism is the over saturation of dialogue and repetition of elements of the story arc that lessen the impact of the finale. Let’s not forget though that this is a film for kids as well as adults, there’s always going to be short cuts to communicate the primary themes of the film to younger viewers and rightly so.

Visually this film is majestic. At times you feel like you are looking at an oil painting, at other moments, a cutting edge anime series. Combining these elements it’s nothing short of a masterpiece. Accompanying all of this is a magnificent score that compliments Anna’s development throughout the film.

The final third carefully takes its time to piece together to solve the riddle of Marnie. The pay off is sheer brilliance and will leave few cinema goers without tears in their eyes. As the final credits roll you are reminded once again just how vital Studio Ghibli is to the world.

The Verdict | When Marnie Was There is a delightful mix of blurry and bliss. An emotional, heart-warming tale that is beautiful in every aspect.



One thought on “Cinema Review | When Marnie Was There

  1. Pingback: The Films of 2016 – Six Months In | Fake Geeks

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