Movie Review - When Marnie Was There

The animation from Studio Ghibli is absolutely gorgeous and each frame is like an exquisite painting. The company also has a great knack for telling interesting stories about young women or girls. It's not surprising that the Walt Disney Company was a distributor or in league with Studio Ghibli because Disney has its history with telling princess stories, mostly traditional tales, whereas Ghibli is a bit non-traditional in its princess stories or its stories about young girls. Several times, Ghibli has told stories about girls who end up going an amazing adventures, mostly fantastical, and this one is pretty much in the same league, except it's less an adventure and more just a character study.

Based on the 1967 novel by Joan G. Robinson, this movie focuses on a teenage girl named Anna who is suffering from asthma and depression. A lot of her depression stems from the fact that she never really knew her parents. She's an orphan. She's very introspective. She's very quiet and quite anti-social. She likes to draw. It's a way to isolate and express herself simultaneously. It is also her way to observe and analyze the world. Things change when Anna meets a young, long-haired blone named Marnie.

Anna forms a bond with Marnie that she's not able to form with anyone else. They spend time together in a lush, marshy area. They go on a row boat. They have a picnic. They just go walking together, talking, laughing and sharing. They seem to fall in love with one another. Yet, there is an air of mystery that subtly builds.

The way that the relationship between Anna and Marnie is depicted, I assumed that the mystery would be something bolder than what it ended up being. I assumed that Anna and Marnie would become lovers. I didn't expect a kiss or anything further, but I thought the intimation would be that they were in a seeming lesbian relationship, if not slight affair.

The way the two girls embrace, the tenderness and the passion between them, particularly when Anna misses Marnie, is at times almost to the level of a love affair. What the mystery is revealed to be is just as compelling, but it's not as monumental as what it could have been.

An animated film that depicted a lesbian romance would have been incredible, but instead the film is more about the discovery of one's self through the discovery of one's past. It's beautifully done. It's gorgeous in fact.

I was moved, but never more than when I heard the film's end credits song and theme song. That song is "Fine on the Outside" by Priscilla Ahn. It's a perfect fit for this movie. It's so amazing. It made me cry. It should certainly be a nominee for Best Original Song at the 88th Oscars.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated PG for thematic elements and smoking.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 43 mins.


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