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Rosalyn Lim 林惠美

When Marnie Was There (2014) Poster

When Marnie Was There (2014) at a glance

When Marnie Was There (2014) is the second anime feature film by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. It is based on the novel of the same title by Joan G. Robinson. This Studio Ghibli film is potentially the last anime feature by the acclaimed Japanese animation studio.

Update: Read All Studio Ghibli Movie Review Here!

When Marnie Was There (2014) Trailer

When Marnie Was There (2014) Synopsis

Sent from her foster home in the city one summer to a sleepy town by the sea in Hokkaido, Anna dreams her days away among the marshes. She believes she's outside the invisible magic circle to which most people belong — and shuts herself off from everyone around her, wearing her "ordinary face". Anna never expected to meet a friend like Marnie, who doesn't judge Anna for being herself. But just as Anna learns the loveliness of friendship, she begins to wonder about her newfound friend…

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When Marnie Was There (2014) Review

Anna Sasaki.
Anna Sasaki.

As the review title suggests, I seriously thought When Marnie Was There (2014) was a romance film based around a lesbian relationship. I have no issue with LGBT films (in fact, I love them) but let me explain why I thought this to be the case and why it is necessary to discuss in this review.

The swamp house. Anna meets Marnie.
The swamp house. Anna meets Marnie.

When I watch a film, I would instantly evaluate it based on what I actually detect from the viewing. I rarely watch trailers or read a lot about it beforehand so most of the time my mind is clean as I do not want to form preconceptions. That is why I couldn't help thinking Studio Ghibli had made a lesbian film, as it has a misleading story progression.

Anna and Marnie.
Anna and Marnie.

The main character, Anna, is a shy and lonely girl who is often uncomfortable with people. She hates herself and probably everyone around her, as she could be seen hostile to others at times. However, she bonded so quickly with Marnie, whom she just met. Anna looks so dependent or obsessed with the girl. They secretly see each other for many nights. All of a sudden, Marnie says they would remain a secret. They quickly look like soulmates so after some time I thought they might be lesbians. When Marnie finally says she loves Anna more than any girl she has known, this reinforced the idea!

Girls at the festival.
Girls at the festival.

Lesbian film or not, that is not the issue. The thing is, When Marnie Was There (2014) is quite a letdown because they had attracted my genuine interest; I thought this was going to be a special Studio Ghibli film which celebrates LGBT pride but in the end it is not. It is also not a romance nor a friendship film; it is something else and the progression is truly misleading. I guess they are just trying to make the film feel mysterious but this goes terribly wrong.

Anna as flower girl.
Anna as flower girl.

Despite this, When Marnie Was There (2014) does have the ability to make us wonder about people from the past and everyone's unique story. There are some sad scenes and the ending is a little satisfying because a mystery is solved but all that cannot make up for rest of the time wasted on something that ends up feeling underdeveloped. I wanted to love When Marnie Was There (2014), but I just can't.

PS. Finally, my Studio Ghibli Marathon is complete!

Who will like this?

Studio Ghibli fans...

Other Movie Reviews (from the same studio)

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Castle in the Sky (1986)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
Only Yesterday (1991)
Porco Rosso (1992)
Pom Poko (1994)
Whisper of the Heart (1995)
Princess Mononoke (1997)
My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999)
Spirited Away (2001)
The Cat Returns (2002)
Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Tales from Earthsea (2006)
Ponyo (2008)
The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)
From Up On Poppy Hill (2011)
The Wind Rises (2013)
The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)

Details of the movie

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Producer: Yoshiaki Nishimura, Toshio Suzuki
Story: Joan G. Robinson
Screenplay: Keiko Niwa, Masashi Andō, Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Cinematography: Junji Yabuta, Atsushi Tamura, Hidenori Shibahara
Music: Takatsugu Muramatsu
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Starring: Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura
Full Credit: [IMDb]
Distributor: Toho
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Genre: Drama
Running time: 103 mins
Budget: USD 10,523,124 est.
Box office: USD 30,563,937 est.

Official website(s)

This article is a part of Rosalyn's Animated Movie Marathon and MoviepilotU. Rosalyn can be contacted via email and facebook.

Stay tuned for more animated features!!!


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