If anyone has kept up with the academy awards in the last decade of longer, they have probably seen a Studio Ghibli film featured. In 2015 it was The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and in 2014 it was The Wind Rises. Both magnificent films by two great directors (Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata). Unfortunately Ghibli movies haven’t been able to accomplish anything in the academy since Miyazaki’s masterpiece Spirited Away won best animated picture in 2003. When Marnie was There is supposedly the last feature film to come out of this legendary production house. And boy does it not disappoint.
When Marnie was There is based of a book of the same name by English author Joan G. Robinson. Hayao Miyazaki has for years made this book required reading for anyone who works for him at Studio Ghibli and in their seemingly last days made a wonderful adaptation of said book.
As for the movie itself, well it has the same lovely Studio Ghibli art/animation style that has become world-famous and recognizable. The music is classic Ghibli with lullaby like piano tracks that let you become enraptured into the world that is being created. These elements firing on all cylinders is what can make a movies atmosphere seem real, even though its animated.
The story follows Anna, a young girl from the city who is leaving her foster parents for the summer because of her asthma as she heads to live with some relatives in the country to get some fresh country air. It is there where she sees a wonderful lake side mansion and meets its keeper, an equally young blonde girl named Marnie.
Anna is voiced by Hailee Steinfeld and she does a great job of portraying all of Anna’s self loathing and the doubts she is having as a child dealing with foster parents and the feeling of not being wanted. Which I think is something everyone has felt at some point in their childhood. And although it may seem annoying and whiney at first I truly came to relate and sympathize with this little twelve year old girl.
Marnie is voiced by Kiernan Shipka and has the tough job of keeping a light hearted mood in spite of the constant angst and depression Anna is facing. And she does an excellent job as well. She’s the friend you had when you were little who would always help with your problems but still be playful and have an upbeat attitude. They wouldn’t get down in the dumps with you, they would raise you out of the dumps and Kieran brings that across as Marnie perfectly.
There are other side characters like Anna’s aunt and uncle and this chubby girl Anna scuffles with plus a fisherman who only says like one line, but none of them really matter. Don’t get me wrong they are crucial to creating the mood and environment of this small country town. But they are dwarfed by the developing relationship of Anna and Marnie.
While not impossible it can be very challenging for adults to relate to the existential struggles of children, but this movie does it all in a way that I really haven’t seen before. Instead of making you feel for the child, it takes you back to when you were a child and thats where the emotions hit. When you have been caught off guard and have returned to your pre-teen self and are faced with the things you feared and hated back then. Then quickly takes those emotions and brings it back to your adulthood. With the combination of these two different world views colliding so suddenly its enough to make anyone feel the emotion. And Precilla Anne’s Fine on the Outside insert song is enough to push you over the edge to waterworksville.
Studio Ghibli has always been a go-to for me if I want something that I know, no matter what its about, I will enjoy it. And When Marnie was There is no exception. I am thoroughly looking for its home video release so I can pick up a Blu-ray copy. And hope that it will make its way to next years academy awards and bring home that trophy for Studio Ghibli one last time.
Due to the slow and limited release its getting in the states I’d be surprised if many people have seen it (let alone knew about its existence). But it is picking up steam in the states releasing in more and more theaters each week. So if it isn’t in a theater near you, request it!