When Marnie Was There

"Very Good"

When Marnie Was There Review


Japan's Studio Gibli has been responsible for some of the finest animated movies in recent decades, from 2003's Oscar-winning Spirited Away to last year's beautiful The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Now adapted by Disney with a starry Western voice cast, their films are reaching a wider audience. And this remarkably moving drama shows how complex an animated movie should be, skilfully grappling with grown-up themes through a child's perspective.

The story comes from the Joan G. Robinson novel about Anna (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld in the English-language version), a 12-year-old who lives in Sapporo with her foster mother Yoriko (Geena Davis). But Anna isn't like the other giggly girls at school, and after an asthma attack, she moves to the countryside to live with Aunt Setsu and Uncle Kiyomasa (Grey Griffin and John C. Reilly). They give her plenty of space to explore the area, and when she spots an abandoned seaside mansion, she is unexpectedly drawn to it, befriending Marnie (Kiernan Skipka), the free-spirited girl who lives there. Anna understands that Marnie is an imaginary friend, then is surprised to find Marnie's diary hidden behind a bookshelf in the rambling house.

The twisty plot incorporates a range of elements that keep the audience off-balance: Is this a ghost story? Is Anna mentally unstable because of her difficult background? But the film is much deeper than that, and as Anna takes a fiercely original journey to self-discovery, the film touches on all kinds of resonant themes. For example, Anna struggles with her self-image, never believing that she's a talented artist, although she clearly is. This has left her feeling like no one else likes her either. So it's both fascinating and moving to watch her blossoming relationships with both the young girl Sayaka (Ava Acres) and the older woman Hisako (Vanessa Williams) who paints by the seaside. Both offer emotional insight into Anna's story.

Studio Gibli crafts its animation in a deceptively simple style, with seemingly plain-faced characters and sumptuously painted backdrops, but the artistry captures thoughts and moods with uncanny accuracy, and the imagery looks far more dazzling than digital 3D. As a result, director-cowriter Hiromasa Yonebayashi finds remarkable ways to evoke a powerful sense of Anna's youthful yearning. The film's style may seem a bit slow and simple to younger audiences looking for something fast and silly, but adults and older teens, especially anyone who felt like an outsider, will find this story packed with meaning as they are encouraged to explore how their upbringing has had an impact on everything they are today.

Rich Cline

Watch the trailer for When Marnie Was There:



When Marnie Was There

Facts and Figures

Genre: Animation

Run time: 103 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 19th July 2014

Box Office Worldwide: $561.1 thousand

Distributed by: GKIDS

Production compaines: Studio Ghibli, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, KDDI Corporation, Nippon Television Network (NTV), Mitsubishi Motors Corporation

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 65 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Producer: Yoshiaki Nishimura

Starring: Sara Takatsuki as Anna Sasaki (voice), Kasumi Arimura as Marnie (voice), as Yoriko Sasaki (voice), as Kiyomasa Oiwa (voice), as Setsu Oiwa (voice), Ryôko Moriyama as Elderly Lady (voice), as Nanny (voice), as Hisako (voice), Hiroyuki Morisaki as Art Teacher (voice), Takuma Otoo as Neighborhood Association Officer (voice), Hana Sugisaki as Sayaka (voice), Bari Suzuki as Elderly Lady 2 (voice), Shigeyuki Totsugi as Marnie's Father (voice), Ken Yasuda as Toichi (voice), Yo Oizumi as Dr. Yamashita (voice)

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

Advertisement
A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.