When Marnie Was There is written and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (The Secret World of Arrietty) and produced by the fabulous Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle). It is based on the novel of the same name by Joan G. Robinson, with the location changed from Norfolk in England, to Sapporo in Japan.
Anna (Hailee Steinfeld – Ender’s Game) is a shy girl, who struggles to make friends and identify with other young people. She lives with her foster parents, but is unhappy as she has discovered that they are being paid by the government to look after her.
After she collapses from an asthma attack one day, her foster mother Yoriko (Geena Davis – Thelma and Louise, Beetlejuice) sends her away to stay with relatives for the summer in a small rural seaside town.
Living in the beautiful home of Setsu (Grey DeLisle – Mighty Magiswords) and Kiyomasa (John C. Reilly – Guardians of the Galaxy), Anna begins to settle in and explore her surroundings in the clean air. Her life is changed one day when she spots an old dilapidated manor house by the salt marsh. She wades across but finds it uninhabited.
As she leaves, she sees the house for a moment lit up and in good repair and that night she dreams about the house, and about a young blonde girl having her hair brushed. After a fight with local schoolgirls, Anna runs away and takes a rowing boat to the mansion, where she meets Marnie (Kiernan Shipka – Flowers in the Attic), the mysterious blonde girl.
The two of them agree to keep their meeting a secret and strike up a friendship which will profoundly affect both of their lives.
When Marnie Was There is a truly heartwarming film, very emotional to watch. It deals with the issues of depression, loneliness and social isolation in a touching and very delicate manner. The relationship developed between the two girls is fascinating as they learn to deal with their lives together.
The animation is as ever absolutely glorious, beautiful sunsets, rippling water and breathtaking vistas. In true Ghibli style, it is an emotional rollercoaster, a must own for Ghibli fans and a great introduction to anime for the uninitiated.
“Promise we’ll remain a secret, forever.”
When Marnie Was There is available to buy now on DVD and Blu-ray.