Animated Movies, Reviews, Studio Ghibli, Studios

Studio Ghibli Countdown: ‘When Marnie Was There’

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When Marnie Was There is a film quite unlike most of Studio Ghibli’s other works. It has less of the spectacular magic that seems to have become a staple in many of their other films and instead has a very different kind of magic on a much smaller, more personal scale.

When Marnie Was There tells the story of a young girl named Anna, who is sent away to live in the country after collapsing from an asthma attack. Anna is already having trouble feeling loved, as she is an orphan, and recently discovered that her foster parents receive money from the government for caring for her. She interprets this to mean that they do not love her, and has become very closed off emotionally.

Anna has a lot of trouble making friends in this new town, and ends up spending most of her time alone, just as she had in the city. Eventually she finds herself at a mysterious old mansion, and begins dreaming of girl named Marnie living there. The dreams become so real to her that the lines between reality and her dreams become blurred, and Anna wonders if Marnie could be real.

Things become even more complicated when a new family moves into the mansion, and Anna befriends their daughter Sayaka. Sayaka discovers a diary hidden in the house that belonged to someone named Marnie long ago. When she shares it with Anna, some of the events described within seem very familiar to her.

I will stop with my recap there because if you have not seen this film yet you really must and I do not want the mystery of who Marnie is to be spoiled for you. I am very happy to say that I did not figure out what was going on until almost the end, and I’m still not 100% sure I know exactly. And I am completely okay with that! That is rare for me, because I have a problem with figuring things out long before they are revealed, and spoiling the ends of movies for myself. I was so glad that it was not the case with this movie.

When Marnie Was There is a beautiful film, not just in the emotional content of the story, but – like all Studio Ghibli films – it is a gorgeous work of art. The backgrounds are like moving paintings, the music is soft and soothing, and the sound design for the countryside just sweeps you away and makes you feel like you are right there with them. Everything about this film is just rich with detail, and even without the intriguing mystery, would still be completely worth watching just for the experience alone.

When I first agreed to review this movie for our Studio Ghibli Countdown series I had never seen it. It was one of those movies that I’d always meant to see, but never got around to watching. I am so glad that writing this article gave me the push I needed to watch it, and now I only wish I’d seen it sooner! It is such an amazing movie; I cannot recommend it enough.

Have you seen When Marnie Was There? What do you think of it?

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About Jonathan North

Jonathan North is writer, photographer, video editor, and animation fan from Iowa. He studied advertising and design at Iowa State University, and also has degrees in multimedia and art. His favorite movie is Fantasia, and his favorite cartoon is Gravity Falls. Or maybe Steven Universe. He can’t decide. You can find more of his work on his blog, as well as his YouTube channel, where he reviews all manner things, including (almost) every version ever of Alice in Wonderland. His favorites are the 1999 version starring Tina Majorino, and of course, the 1951 Disney version. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, @jonjnorth.
  • I seriously need to get around seeing this one, just hearing the most amazing things about it including from this awesome article!! Cannot wait to watch it over this summer!! :DDDDD

  • Rachel Wagner

    This movie is so great. It really moved me this idea of having love in your life but not realizing it. Sometimes it reaches out and rescues you! I also love the song Fine on the Outside

  • Rafael

    This movie makes me cry everytime I watch it, like Brokeback Mountain does. It brings so many strong feelings, I can’t help it. Love Hiromasa Yonebayashi films <3