Thursday, June 11, 2015

[Review] When Marnie Was There

According to reports, When Marnie Was There might possibly be the final Studio Ghibli film. Your mileage here will mostly depend on your feelings of past Ghibli films. But I will say that this is one of the more accessible (and shorter) ones of the bunch, and it has one of the most potent endings. And frankly, it's just beautiful.

Anna is an independent daydreamer & sketcher. Early on, she leaves her foster home and spends the summer in a seaside town with other relatives. Across the lake, is an enticing, abandoned mansion. Anna becomes enamored with it and has dreams of seeing lights in the windows. Pretty soon the dreams bleed into her reality. One night when she journeys to the mansion, she meets Marnie, a mysterious girl around the same age, and the two form a secret friendship.

The film displays the nuanced hand-drawn animation we come to expect from Ghibli, and there's an enchanting score that stirs up emotions with its gorgeous flutes, strings, piano, and acoustic guitars. The story is intriguing once the boat is set into motion, especially as we wonder what the deal with Marnie is. Sometimes the mansion is occupied and sometimes it isn't. This brings in a bit of a supernatural, almost Twilight Zone-like aspect. The plot drifts into territory that is a little more on the underwhelming side, but there are significant payoffs in the end.

It comes down to a tale of two lost souls finding each other. They're both young kids that have experienced some form of neglect, abandonment, and disconnect from their guardians. And the power of this resonates in the film's final act, making everything that comes before it worthwhile. And yes, the ending is a tearjerker. At times, a couple of the narrative leaps left me a little confused about exactly what capacity and realm Marnie functions in--Is she a ghost? A dream? An imaginary friend? But I guess in the hands of magical realism, you don't really need to ask those questions.

* 9/10 *

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