Like other Studio Ghibli films before it, When Marnie Was There is based on a children's book, in this case Joan G. Robinson's young adult novel of the same name. Shifting Robinson’s narrative intact from its landscape of Norfolk to rural Japan, When Marnie Was There tells the story of Anna, an anxiety-stricken teenager sent to live with her aunt and uncle in a remote seaside town. Here, she befriends Marnie, a girl of her own age, but as their friendship deepens, troubling questions begin to emerge.
When Marnie Was There subtly observes the trauma of that transitional age between childhood and adulthood, with its burgeoning emotions and complex half-truths. Anne's incomprehensible loneliness finds its counterpart in her new friend, but the question of whether Marnie is just a figment of her imagination or a force of the supernatural lingers throughout Yonebayashi's film.
As Anne's friendship to Marnie forces her to address her own insecurities, she learns compassion, and comes to acknowledge their convergent but equally painful hardships. The use of Robinson's very English story also throws into question notions of being physically and emotionally 'other'. Marnie and Anna are both outsiders in a very real sense, with fair complexions and blue eyes, but must accept their differences and ultimately embrace them. Among the more psychologically fraught of the studio's offerings, this may not be one for the more emotionally sensitive of younger viewers, but its coming-of-age narrative will certainly find a home in fans of Ghibli's work.
A trance-like exploration of imagination, friendship, and the natural and supernatural worlds – concerns central to all of Ghibli’s films – if this is the studio’s final offering, it is fittingly so. Eerie, rich and beautifully animated,in Studio Ghibli’s characteristic hand-drawn style, this is a contemplative, beguiling film that will find resonance with young and adult audiences alike.
|What||When Marnie Was There film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
10 Jun 16 – 12 Aug 16, Event times vary
|Website||Click here to go to When Marnie Was There at BFI's London Film Festival|