When Marnie Was There Review

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Starring*: Hailee Steinfeld, Kiernan Shipka, Grey DeLisle, John C Reilly

*I watched this English dubbed version of this film, for the Japanese cast, please see here

This review is spoiler free!

The Overview

Upon being sent to live with relatives in the countryside; an emotionally distant adolescent girl becomes obsessed with an abandoned mansion and infatuated with a girl who lives there; a girl who may or may not be real (Source: IMDB

The Good

Officially released in 2014, the latest film from Studio Ghibli, finally gets its release in UK cinemas this year! If rumours are to be believed, this may well be the last film released by the beloved Studio, following the retirement of prolific director, Hayao Miyazaki. As a big Studio Ghibli fan, naturally I was really looking forward to this. 

I’ll start off by sayin that the IMDB description (noted above), in no way does this film justice. Not only was it not the film I was expecting, it completely floored me in ways I was not expecting it to. 

Quite simply, this film is magnificent. I’m in that quandary now, where I need to intelligently write about this film, but yet I’m still trying to piece all my feelings together! 

As is to be expected with Ghibli films, the animation is completely stunning; in particular there’s a number of scenes which involve being in or near water, and all of these were amazingly well animated. The score is equally beautiful; melancholic in tone, and suiting the quiet emotion of the film wonderfully. 

I don’t want to spoil anything to do with the story, but this is a beautiful coming of age tale, simplistic in places but very emotionally complex in others. I can’t speak for the Japanese version, but in the English version I really loved Steinfeld as Anna. Voicing a character who is very withdrawn and closed in her emotions but yet still portraying them with warmth and likeability isn’t an easy job, but I felt this came across very naturally in Steinfeld’s tone. Studio Ghibli have always made the effort to have an excellent English voice cast, and When Marnie Was There is no exception. 

This film tackles some pretty deep themes, covering depression, anxiety, loneliness, and grief. It’s far from an upbeat watch, and this might not be the best introduction for kids to Ghibli, but for older fans, this film will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression. I saw it less than 2 hours ago and I’m already dying to go again. Fair warning also, this film will completely wreck you emotionally, so take some tissues! 

The Bad

I hope this isn’t just because I’m very close to Ghibli, but for me this film was flawless! Whilst I always strive for balance in my reviews, I’ll also be the first to admit when there is genuinely nothing bad about a film, and When Marnie Was There is one of those rare, perfect films. 

The Verdict

I saw this movie and you should too. This film has got a very limited cinema release, but I absolutely urge you to seek this one out where possible. I find that Ghibli films are best enjoyed when you can completely immerse yourself in the film, free from outside distractions, so seeing this in the cinema is a must! This may be one of the less “fantastical” Ghibli’s, and it is startlingly grounded in reality, however it is quite simply breathtaking and utterly mesmerising from the start. If this is to be the last Studio Ghibli film, then it is quite the swansong! An absolute must see. 

Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a totally misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Let me know in the comments below! 


3 thoughts on “When Marnie Was There Review

Add yours

  1. Nice write up! 🙂

    I reviewed this last night too although you’ve rated it a bit higher than I have. It is a touching and haunting story, told through typically sumptuous visuals and a nice way to go out for Ghibli, jut not a quintessential finale for them in my opinion. 🙂


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