Friday, January 29, 2016

Movie Review: "When Marnie Was There" (2015)

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Movie"When Marnie Was There"
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Year: 2015
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Anna (voiced by Sara Takatsuki) is a foster child being raised in the city. Though her foster mother is loving, Anna is extremely unhappy. When her asthma acts up, Anna is sent to the country to live with her foster mother's sister for the summer. There, she meets a young girl named Marnie (voiced by Kasumi Arimura), who isn't quite what she seems to be, but will forever change Anna's life. 

Studio Ghibli is famous for offering up many wonderful animated films with family friendly but often more mature themes. Their latest film, the Oscar nominated animated feature "When Marnie Was There," is no different. Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi adapts British writer Joan G. Robinson's book of the same name to the big screen. Sara Takatsuki voices Anna, a young girl who has faced a lot of tragedy despite being only 12 years old. Her parents died at a young age, and she has lived with her foster parents for many years. Upon discovering her foster mother receives a stipend from the government for caring for her, Anna becomes depressed starts to question her own worth as a person. After suffering an asthma attack at school, she is sent to spend then summer with her foster mom's sister in the clean air of the countryside. Of course, upon arrival, she is no happier there than at home, until one day, she meets Marnie, voiced by Kasumi Arimura. This is where the fantastical element comes into play in this story as we aren't exactly sure where Marnie comes from since she just randomly appeared one day. Her home sometimes appears deserted, and at other times, it appears to host lavish parties with numerous fancy guests. Marnie has been the only one able to make Anna feel like herself. Their friendship is tested as Marnie appears and reappears, sometimes without notice, as Anna tries to uncover what is real and what might be in her mind.

"When Marnie Was There" is a story about a young girl coping with loss. There are some mysterious elements sprinkled in with lessons about self discovery, friendship, love, and family. The animation is beautiful as always, and we have come to expect no less from Studio Ghibli. They truly are making some of the most visually appealing animated movies out there right now. While this is film does try to grip the audience with such a somber, emotional tale, sadly, the emotions don't always hit their intended marks, especially for BigJ. There were a couple of times when I actually got teary-eyed towards the end of the film, I'm not gonna lie. The mystery of who and what Marnie is is somewhat intriguing, but it's definitely not as mystical and magical as some of Studio Ghibli's other offerings. With its more grown-up, melodramatic theme of coping with loss, much like last year's "The Tale of Princess Kaguya," it may be a little much for younger viewers to comprehend, but older kids and adults should be able to understand the subtle nuance and be able to deal with the methodical pace. Even though this film is well made, we still prefer the more fun films from Studio Ghibli "My Neighbor Totoro" or "Spirited Away."

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Taken 3"

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