When Marnie Was There (思い出のマーニー) is a moving film about understanding your own identity and the power of love and family. Presented with the stunning animation one comes to expect from Studio Ghibli, the film lends itself to being open to one’s interpretation and understanding while also on its face being a fully realized mystical journey.
The film tells the story of Anna Sasaki who spends her summer break with relatives in the fresh air of the Kushiro wetlands in order to help her recover and recharge her body from an asthma attack. Anna’s foster mother also hopes the change of scenery can help her daughter who she has noticed being more distant and withdrawn at home and at school.
While exploring the rural town, Anna finds what she initially believes is an abandoned mansion across the marsh. But she soon meets a mysterious girl there named Marnie who she befriends. Though still distant from her kind aunt and uncle where she is staying and the local teens, Anna continues growing closer with Marnie only to begin realizing their meetings aren’t what they seem.
The majority of the film focuses on the very close relationship and bond formed between Anna and Marnie. And that relationship has been dissected by fans since its release, as well as since the release of the novel the film is based on.
The beauty of stories is that many are open to one’s interpretation. Obviously, the writer of such stories have their own clear direction they hope to get across. But the beauty of being able to escape into these worlds in books and film is that we can all absorb them in our own ways.
Regardless of how you choose to see this particular story, the film presents its own clear choice in the end. And it is an emotional ending that brings everything together in a beautiful and meaningful way.
Anna is a child that grows up in a foster home. And it is certainly not easy to understand what someone like Anna may go through in terms of how she may feel about family and the relationships with people around her.
Throughout the film, she is able to seemingly make a very close friend. And later, she becomes more open and overcomes the insecurities she may have been feeling before.
Her foster parents as well as her foster mother’s relatives she stays with in the countryside are shown to be very kind and caring to her. And one might interpret her distant nature to them in a negative way. But that’s another wonderful thing about a good story. We definitely see Anna growing and learning throughout the film. And the ending, which is relatively tied up very neatly, resonates with a slightly surprising, but nonetheless emotionally affecting way.
Perhaps not in the way some might have expected or wanted, but it doesn’t take away from what the story ends up actually being. The emotional climax is well developed and the culmination of Anna’s journey leaves a profound impact.
When Marnie Was There speaks of family and love. How both aren’t dictated by blood or DNA. How friendship and those emotional connections and bonds people make with each other can help shape someone for the future. With some beautifully stunning animation and a little bit of magic, the film presents an emotionally resonant story that many will be able to relate to and appreciate.