When Marnie was There / Omoide no Marnie
Review By: John Fragglepuss Evans
Genre: Mystery, Drama, Psychological, Slice of Life, Studio Ghibli
First Released: June 2015 in the U.S., 103-minute film
Summary: Anna Sasaki is a 12-year-old girl living with her foster parents in Sapporo. Due to various health problems, a doctor suggests that Anna move somewhere more relaxing for a time. Deciding to take her doctor’s advice, she travels to the countryside to stay with relatives for the summer. She spends her time walking around the area and sketching, which has long been a hobby of hers. On a seemingly normal day, Anna finds herself drawn to an abandoned house across the marsh, which can only be walked to during low tide. Outside the house is overgrown and the inside is clearly empty. It is at this mysterious house that she meets Marnie. Marnie and Anna begin spending a lot of time together, making it seem like they have known each other for longer than a few days. However, there is something mysterious about Marnie. When the two are together, Anna has trouble remembering things, and even blacks out on occasion, waking up at a different location than she last remembers. What is going on with Marnie and this mysterious house?
When Marnie Was There may very well be the last feature film to be released by Studio Ghibli. It was directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who also directed The Secret World of Arriety. The first aspect of the film that stuck out to me was the beautiful animation. Much like other Ghibli films, the hand-drawn animation is stunning and done so well that it seems life-like. For example, when Anna is at the marsh, there are ducks in the scene that act exactly like they do in real life. On those lines, the sounds used throughout the film are also spot on, from the rain storms to when Anna enters the water in the marsh.
The characters are believable, meaning they are not off-the-wall, they act in a way that makes you connect with them. While Anna knows she is flawed, she tries to make the best of her situation. Marnie is a lovable character, but as you find out, she is not perfect either. I enjoyed how the parental units in the film were minimal, allowing the film to focus on Anna and Marnie.
The mystery of Marnie kept me intrigued throughout the film, and I feel it was wrapped up in an appropriate way, leaving me satisfied with the end. There was one odd part near the end though, when a recap of everything that had happened occurred with a character that knew about it already. Not a big deal, I just found it a bit strange and unnecessary.
The ending song in the film fit perfectly. Much like other Studio Ghibli films, it leaves you watching and listening until the end of the credits, and even longer as you sit and think about everything that just happened in the movie.
It saddens me that this is likely to be the last Studio Ghibli film. I still remember the first Ghibli I watched, Princess Mononoke. I could not believe how amazing the story was and how much I loved it. It left me wanting more and I proceeded to search for any other Ghibli film I could find until I found and watched them all! While there are some I enjoy more than others, I like pretty much all of them, and have now watched most of them several times. Here is to hoping they decide to make more films!
You might enjoy this if: You are ready for a film that mixes slice of life with mystery in a way that leaves you guessing until the very end, or if you just plain enjoy Studio Ghibli films.
You might not like it if: You are looking for a fantasy-style Ghibli, such as Nausicaa or Princess Mononoke.
Note to the Viewer: While the film is anime, it seems more like a live-action film in the believable way it is presented.