When Marnie Was There (2014)

when marnie was there poster 2015 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking story for teens

Story feels like it could be streamlined

Movie Info

Movie Name:  When Marnie Was There

Studio:  Studio Ghibli

Genre(s):  Animated/Drama

Release Date(s):  July 19, 2014

MPAA Rating:  PG


A house of dreams

Anna Sasaki is a young asthmatic girl who lives with her foster parents in Sapporo.  Suffering from depression, Anna’s foster parents send her to the countryside for the summer to stay with their relatives.  There, Anna finds herself alone and depressed until she makes the acquaintance of a young girl named Marnie who lives in a rundown home across the salt marsh.  Anna realizes there is something strange and special about Marnie as they grow closer and closer together.  Does Anna know Marnie in some way that she does not understand?

Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, When Marnie Was There (思い出のマーニー or Omoide no Mānī aka Marnie of [my] Memories) was initially released in 2014 before being fully released in 2015.  The story was based on the 1967 British novel When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson.  When Marnie Was There was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.


Is Marnie real? A dream? A ghost?

Studio Ghibli always makes good choices and if even if you don’t love the story, the picture ends up being a feast for the eyes.  When Marie Was There isn’t my favorite Ghibli picture but it still is a great entry in the studio’s animated classics.

The story for When Marnie Was There is rather oblique.  Anna’s past and her family set-up is a bit hard to follow at the start of the movie and the idea of sending her to relatives she’s never met for an entire summer seems rather odd for how her guardian is portrayed.  Anna then finds herself on a series of adventures with Marnie at her home, but it is a bit unclear if Anna really recognizes that Marnie is potentially a ghost despite the visions.  Anna later states that she doesn’t care if Marnie is real, a ghost, or imaginary, but it seems like she would be more curious about it.

The movie also waits a while to introduce Anna’s new friend Sayaka who would have been better if she had been around through most of the tale.  The story does wrap back around for a satisfying ending, but the path to that ending feels like it could (and should) have been more streamlined.


Marnie…seriously quit toying with my emotions!!!

The art however cannot be faulted in this story.  Japanese animation isn’t for everyone, but I find that most of Studio Ghibli’s work bridges that gap.  What the studio generally does is that it realizes the little touches which make their characters feel real and rounded.  When Marnie Was There carries on this tradition by creating a whole world around the story that feels rich.

When Marnie Was There is a good movie for teens.  The character isn’t always nice or polite but it is because she’s harboring sadness that she cannot express to those around her.  This is a universal concept for young adults and Anna feels like a real teen (or pre-teen in reality).  The story ends up being short and sweet for those who ride it out and give it a chance.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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