Sunday, 26 June 2016

When Marnie Was There (2014 in Japan, 2015 in the west)

(I have only seen this in its native language (Japanese) with subtitles so cannot comment any dubs)
It is rumored that this is going to be the final film from Studio Gibli. If this is true, I can happily say that they went out on a positive note. This is a sweet film that, in true Studio Gibli fashion, should appeal to a wide audience while pondering deep, topical themes. In this case they chose to focus in on depression, especially where it related to both parenthood and people who grow up without a true family.

The film is centered around Anna, an introverted 12 year old girl who has lived with foster parents most of her life. She suffers from asthma and is consequently sent to live temporarily with relatives of her foster parents where the air is cleaner. While living there she discovers an abandoned mansion where she meets a mysterious girl named Marnie. She agrees to keep a secret Marnie a secret from the rest of the world as they use each other to keep themselves mentally stable.

It was written and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayshi based on the young adult novel of the same name. Hiromasa Yonebayshi had his directorial debut in 2010 with Arrietty, a film I believe to be one of Studio Gibli's greatest (among a large list of gems). I consider him to be one of the most exciting directors of animated features to watch moving forward as he has shown, for a second time his top-notch instincts.

The characters are created with such layering and detail that you could believe them to be real people. In particular, it is hard not to get taken in by Anna and Marnie who truly enhance one another and Anna's kindly caregivers help to give a warm overall feel to a film that could easily be too draining. There are arguably very few villainous parts in the film, with life itself being the main focus of tension (although tension is largely unnecessary due to the film's ponderous nature). 

The animation is, as expected from a Studio Gibli picture, absolutely top notch. The hand drawn look to the backgrounds are beautiful, with the abandoned mansion being a particular stand out. The character animation is also very well executed. Marnie particularly, is beautifully drawn to have the look of someone to be envious of but also feel truly safe around.

The script is sharp and captivating with a story that will keep you constantly fascinated. However the film is also warm, ponderous and will leave will leave you emotionally enthralled. The greatest aspect of this film to me is that while it is made for a young audience, it is not afraid to be filled with deep, adult themes. Most studios will not even consider discussing themes of this nature in an animated feature aimed at children. 

The original song, Fine on the Outside by Priscilla Ahn, gives the film a fittingly harmonious finish and understated score helps to keep the viewer drawn in throughout the film. I would recommend this film to absolutely anyone. It is an pure delight that is not to be missed. 5/5