Film Review: When Marnie Was There

'When Marnie Was There' Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Studio Ghibli’s latest film, When Marnie Was There, is to be it’s last for some time, following the recent announcement of its hiatus. The film is the second film from Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, and is a beautifully told coming of age story, based on the novel by Joan G Robinson

The film is focused around socially anxious 12 year old Anna, voiced by Hailee Steinfeld, who is sent to visit distant relatives of her overly protective foster mother for a summer, in order to improve her asthma and overcome her cripplingly low self- esteem issues.

On arriving to stay with her family she finds herself intrigued by an abandoned marsh house which is claimed to be haunted, Anna finds herself being drawn to the house and decides to visit when she discovers Marine, a mysteriously beautiful girl who she can only see.


The story initially seems typical of the ghost story genre which can be initially confusing. As it progresses there is a much deeper message. Showing how it is to be in an awkward in-between age and not knowing where you truly belong, and how your supposed to feel. Which many viewers would find relatable. It’s bound to make you cry! Typical of Ghibli, Anna is shown to be strong, independent and wilful. This positive portrayal of female empowerment throughout Ghibli movies is something that makes it stand out for the past 29 years compared with other anime productions.


The film explores a wide range of feelings throughout, showing Anna’s fear’s struggles with rejection and self acceptance in a compelling manner. The film is the last animation from Ghibli’s long term animator Makiko Futaki, following her death in May of this year. When Marnie Was There is a truly beautiful last film to add to the collection of outstanding films which Futaki animated, including Spirited Away. Credited to be one of the best animated films ever. Although When Marnie Was There doesn’t seem as strong in plot and moving as previous Ghibli films, it still leaves you feeling transferred. Hopefully this will not be the last we see from this truly unique studio.

Rating: 7/10

Words by Kiah Freer


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