Thoughts On When Marnie Was There
I don’t often get to see new Ghibli films at the cinema. Despite having a poster up for ‘When Marnie Was There,’ they didn’t have any showing times for it. On hearing about the closure of Studio Ghibli with the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss what could be their final film. Luckily I located a smaller cinema that specialises in screening a wider variety of films from around the world. I knew I was up for an emotional experience as reviews were claiming the film to be upsetting. The opening also contained warnings of emotional distress. I found it more to be bittersweet. It was very touching in places, but the ending felt like a happy one that resolved the main character’s conflicts. I think much of it was tinged by thoughts of how the studio is changing. When Marnie Was There is based on a children’s book of the same name, written by Joan G Robinson.
The beginning of the film was a little slow. They didn’t seem to be making any efforts to create a likeable main character. She was aloof with those around her. I could still empathise however, as I sensed that this character was deeply troubled and this maintained my interest through the start. I wanted to learn more about why she was this way. Although many will take it to be the usual problems faced while growing up, it struck a chord with me due to my own struggles to connect with others. I loved that she was also a keen artist, carrying her sketchpad with her everywhere. The film is about friendship and self-discovery, which feels all the more powerful in contrast to how we’re initially introduced to the character. Her friend contrasts her well and seems to be everything that she is not. She also becomes more expressive of her emotions as the film continues.
During this new found friendship it’s immediately apparent that there’s something unusual going on. I like that they didn’t obscure this fact just to get a twist at the end. Instead, it keeps you guessing all the way through to try and figure out what the story is behind this girl is. The final explanation is satisfying and believable. I like that it was all finished up properly and made sense. As you’d expect, there are some upsetting moments, but overall I felt happy for the main character who had undergone an arc during the story. It’s difficult to write much more about it without giving too much away.
I really enjoyed When Marnie Was There. It’s a sweet tale, beautifully animated and I loved the music too (‘Fine On The Outside’ by Priscilla Ahn is such a fitting song.) It’s not one of my favourites (I prefer the more fantastical films such as Nausicaa, Laputa and Howl’s Moving Castle), but it’s certainly high on my list as being one of their better films.