When Marnie Was There: Some Thoughts

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE “WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE”

Hey everyone, back again with some thoughts on the movie When Marnie Was There, by Studio Ghibli. I was publishing Character Focus articles every other week or so but I slipped up last week and I’ve been racking my brain on who I want to do my next one on. I haven’t quite figured it out and I’m not sure I necessarily want to do one on this movie but I did have some thoughts on this movie itself that I figured I might share for my own sake as well as those who were interested in reading.

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So let’s begin. First of all, I believe that Marnie may have been my first non-Miyazaki Ghbli movie. I haven’t been able to get around to From Up on Poppy Hill or Arrietty yet unfortunately. But I had heard some buzz around this film in particular so I decided to give it a go as I didn’t have anything else to do that evening. Speaking of Miyazaki and Ghibli movies though, there are still some I need to get to regardless…

Anyway. What I immediately began to enjoy about the movie is that the themes made themselves present to me, even though I was watching the movie without taking notes or breaks to think about it. Being unwanted, masking loneliness, playing with the hand you’re dealt, etc. Watching those themes run their course throughout the movie felt very natural, given Anna’s “I hate everyone” attitude that managed to be changed by the warmth of those around her.

Speaking of which, as I usually do, I loved most of the characters this time around. It was extremely entertaining to watch Anna open up and strengthen herself emotionally and physically, coming to realize that not everyone is taking advantage of her and that her family isn’t just pretending to love her for money. Of course, this resonates especially well with me since it seems I really enjoy the stories of those characters learning that they can’t do it on their own all the time and it’s okay to believe in and rely on other people every once in a while.

The side characters were lovely too. The aunt and uncle were amazing people who seemed to be the perfect matches for reassuring a girl who was shy and insecure about meeting new people. The aunt also somewhat obviously reaffirmed how much Anna’s adopted mother loved her by mentioning things from Anna’s childhood, things Anna couldn’t have possibly remembered. It’s easy for people to forget how lucky they are in some situations. And while Anna’s parents unfortunately perished in a crash and Marnie was taken only a few years after Anna was born, Anna ended up being lucky as Marnie said; she had someone who loved her despite losing her parents and grandmother.

Of course, there was also Marnie. I fell in love with her character almost immediately thanks to her lovely design but as I continued to watch I began to enjoy her character more and more. She had strength in  the face of a family that wasn’t there and a grandmother and maids that bullied her. She made the most of her life despite being under such strict watch and didn’t fall into despair due to it.

Watching her help Anna, especially the scene where they walked into the forest together, was especially heartwarming and almost made me cry at points. The two of them obviously were relying on each other at that point but Marnie started the dialogue of “I’m here for you and I love you.” Marnie seemed to know exactly what to say to get Anna to open up a little bit more. Whether that be because she was her grandmother or not, it was really sweet to watch.

The visuals were a pleasure to watch too. Being a fan of Shinkai I’m a sucker for pretty scenes and the scenery really seemed to match the feel of the movie. A warm countryside setting for a movie about Anna changing from cold and distant to warmer and more expressive seemed to just be right. It wasn’t just a constant barrage of pretty matierial either. The background shots and scenery shots felt appropriate and well spaced out, enough to let you truly appreciate them when they showed up.

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There are still some things that I need to think through regarding the story and how the events played out. Some of the “time travel” things made me a little confused, such as Kazuhiko’s relevance. Of course, I’m wondering if it’s as simple as Anna taking the place of certain people in Marnie’s story such as the flower girl and Kazuhiko but we clearly see Marnie refer to Anna by her name.

I think I saw something coming from the relationship near the beginning though. The emphasis on Anna’s eyes was too prominent to be ignored and when you see that Anna has blue eyes as well, I was wondering if they were related (perhaps sisters or something) until it was revealed that Marnie was her grandmother which I didn’t realize until the movie basically spelled it out for us.

Overall, I really really did enjoy this movie a whole lot. I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes Ghibli movies in general especially because it fits so well in with the other movies Ghibli makes. It was a good way to experience a non-Miyazaki Ghibli movie and I’m excited to watch Poppy Hill and Arrietty even if they don’t receive the same accolades that Marnie did (at least within my circle). I would also recommend this base on the idea that not many people have heard of it or may not have heard as much about it given that it doesn’t have Miyazaki’s name attached to it.

I’m glad I chose to write down my thoughts even if they were a bit disorganized; the movie did really elicit a response from me and to just ignore that would be doing the movie an injustice. I hope to get back to writing articles somewhat regularly once I get my thoughts together about what characters to write about. Thanks for reading as always!

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