Review of When Marnie Was There

When Marnie Was There (2014) Dir: Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Studio Ghibli (2016), U

Just over two years since it’s Japanese release and just under a year since the film premiered in the UK at last year’s London Film Festival, this month sees the release on Blu-ray and DVD of Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s Oscar-nominated film When Marnie Was There (2014).

Based on Joan G. Robinson’s 1967 novel of the same name sees young asthmatic Anna (Hailee Steinfeld / Sara Takatsuki) on the outside of society sent to live with her foster mother’s relatives in the country, for clean air to elevate her asthma. While staying with relatives she is befriended by the enigmatic Marnie (Kiernan Shipka / Kasumi Arimura).

The film is an amazing story of friendship, acceptance, and love for someone who is socially on the outside and having difficulty placing any belief in herself and thinking that she is and deserves to be alone in the world. Anna’s friendship with Marnie is transformational. She realizes that she doesn’t have to be angry for not knowing where she comes from or who she is.  The confidence that this gives her enables her to make relationships with other people in the village and a close friendship with another girl who is new to the village. The power contained within this is aids to healing the fractured relationship she has with her foster mother and reinforces that she doesn’t have to live in isolation and can make connections with others.

As you can imagine, with any Studio Ghibli film the artwork and animation are top class and this-this regard it does not disappoint. The cinematography and shot composition also very much on point and you are immersed in the world, letting yourself be captivated and transfixed by films beauty. It is worth pointing out while some films can be visually pleasing and beautiful but they can lack in story and narrative drive, this is not the case with When Marnie Was There. Visually the film acts in service of the narrative, not the other way around.

This film has to be one of my favorites so far this year. There is the question of it matters if you view this subtitled versus dubbed version. In my opinion no, if the English language dub makes the film more accessible to you or it is your preference than that is ok. I would highly recommend this film you, will not be disappointed.


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