When Marnie Was There (2014)
June 22, 2015 4:15 AM - Subscribe

A young girl is sent to the country for health reasons, where she meets an unlikely friend in the form of Marnie, a young girl with flowing blonde hair. As the friendship unravels it is possible that Marnie has closer ties to the protagonist than we might expect.

Will this be the last studio Ghibli film? It's the second to be directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The troubles of its teenage protagonist are shown very realistically and compassionately at the movie's start. And then she ... falls in love with her grandmother's ghost? Echoes of Spirited Away with a more Gothic treatment. Lovely character design and backgrounds.
posted by rikschell (6 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I had no idea this existed! I absolutely loved Arrietty, which I watched while suffering from a really bad upper respiratory infection expecting a pretty but ultimately empty movie instead of the heartbreaking beauty I actually got. That film got under my skin in a way I was wholly unprepared for.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing this.
posted by byanyothername at 5:58 PM on June 22, 2015

This is the first Ghibli film to have no input from Miyazaki or Takahata. The script didn't feel as tight as Arrietty, but the emotions were very real. I'm already looking forward to Yonebayashi's next project, whether it's at Ghibli or somewhere else.
posted by rikschell at 6:47 PM on June 22, 2015

I adored this, though I had a few complicated feelings about the ending. For most of its length, I was reading it as a coming-out story -- I thought it captured very well the shared fantasy and mutual chivalry that pervaded my early romantic friendships (and those of several other queer women I know). In real life, those relationships usually became something darker, but I wasn't going to fault this film for idealizing them a bit. There's room in this world for ideals, and it certainly wasn't a dishonest story -- Anna in particular is a painfully recognizable kind of child, full of serious self-hatred and the kind of grit that tastes bitter.

But then came the reveal, and suddenly it was a story about family love, not first love. It was an elegant ending and a moving one, and I'm cool with it in general, but it was jarring because it wasn't at all what I'd expected. And I'm not sure how well it served the rest of the film, which was about Anna learning to look to the future, to love her adopted mother, to step forward into the beginning of adulthood. To have Anna be healed, not by the love of people around her, but by the guidance of the grandmother she's already lost, felt like it was taking some of the character's newfound maturity and agency away.

It was a beautiful film, though, and reached me on a visceral level that Ghibli films usually don't -- especially coming right after The Wind Rises, which I thought was soulless and forced and everything this was not.

Also, the dub was super strong, much better than Arietty's (I felt like casting an adult as the young boy was the undoing of Arietty). Kiernan Shipka is kind of mannered as Marnie, especially compared to Hailee Steinfeld's naturalistic Anna, but in the end I liked her as much if not more; I don't know exactly what an isolated, imaginative 1930s ghost girl should sound like, but "mannered" is a good bet.
posted by thesmallmachine at 6:34 PM on June 23, 2015

Thesmallmachine, you're certainly not the only person to see some romantic/coming out aspects in the film. (Rikschell alluded to it in his post!) Has anybody read the original book? I'm wondering if that element is as strong there, or if it's unique to the film.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:00 PM on June 23, 2015

Ha, how did I miss that? I'm glad I'm not alone.

I haven't read the book, but this reminded me to order it.
posted by thesmallmachine at 7:42 PM on June 23, 2015

Just got home from seeing this one with my two oldest kids. My son and I were both boo-hooing HARD at the reveal and the ending, while my daughter thought it was sweet and lovely but it didn't hit her emotionally.

For the first two-thirds, part of me was thinking we were about to see a gay romance in a "kid's" movie, but there was never really any chance of that happening, of course. But I like the fact that the movie led you down that road, ever so gently.

I missed Anna's doll the first time it showed up (the funeral planning scene in which she sits silently in the corner) - they did a great job hiding it in plain sight. The second time they showed it, I gasped. Such a well planned story. I loved everything about this film.
posted by jbickers at 1:39 PM on July 15, 2015

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