When Marnie Was There, film review: ‘Last Studio Ghibli movie is a mopey farewell’

A still from When Marnie Was There

A still from When Marnie Was There - Credit: Archant

There are quite a few weepy films coming out this week but none will have the poignancy of this Japanese animation.

The sadness comes less from its story of a lonely young girl finding friendship, and more from it being, as things stand, the final film from the legendary Studio Ghibli.

The retirements of its two leading directors and co-founders, Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, have left a gap that the rest of the company has failed to fill.

The loving craftsmanship and Miyazaki’s gently dictatorial quality control, that once made the company so special – doing everything in house, retaining a large permanent staff, even when there was nothing in production – became weaknesses once the hits dried up.

When Marnie underperformed in Japan on its 2014 release, it announced a “temporary” halt to production.


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In retrospect, a certain air of gloom has hung over the studio’s films for about a decade; only Ponyo was really upbeat and happy.

This film focuses on Anna, a lonely asthmatic girl with no friends who is raised by foster parents and spends a summer by the sea to recuperate after a particularly severe attack.

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Here, the boyish looking Anna starts a friendship with the blonde-haired Marnie, a ghostly figure who appears in a deserted mansion.

The film has many of the traditional Ghibli traits: lots of greenery and fresh air, a sick character needing to convalesce and a focus on an uncertain young girl trying to find her place in the world.

It is lovely as almost all Ghibli films are, but the story has more melodrama than real charm, and it all makes for a rather mopey farewell.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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