Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Film Review No. 21 When Marnie Was There (U)

Strong Points:
Strikingly animated
Excellent voice cast
Emotions running high
Twists and turns
Depth to characters

Weak Points:
Some plot conveniences
Some parts can't be considered OK for a U can they?

Some spoilers ahead:

In-depth Review:
I'm at a bit of a unique position compared to other reviewers for this film. You see, it is the last film from Studio Ghibli for a while as they are on a 'long hiatus' and so the film has been seen as a swan song for this highly rated company. Thus, some people have said it's good, but not nearly as magical as some of Studio Ghibli's other works, and so they were left slightly disappointed. I, on the other hand, have never watched a Studio Ghibli film before, so my impressions are on this film alone. It's good. Very good.

The film stars Anna, an introvert who is sent to the countryside for the summer to recover from her Asthma. Once there she is drawn to an abandoned mansion for an unknown reason, where she meets Marnie, an extrovert. They become friends but it soon becomes apparent that there is more to Marnie and the mansion than meets the eye as she keeps disappearing... And is the mansion really run down? Bear with the film, it all makes sense in the end.

I was surprised at just how many twists and turns there were in this film. I mean, I expected something was different about Marnie, you get that from the trailers, but what really got me was finding out that Anna was adopted, with money being paid from the government to her new family. I didn't expect that layer of depth in an animation (although they're getting better), and the film juggled all the plot strings nicely, even if it sometimes gave in to plot conveniences (Sayaka just finds the missing pages of the diary). I had an inkling about who Marnie was before it was revealed, or at least what her connection to Anna was, but the entire ending still caught me off guard.

Let's talk about that ending, shall we? I mean, it was tough to watch, what with all the death and misery. But I felt entranced by it, needing to know more, needing to understand, and that's what makes it so good. Some films would've made it sentimental (a critic's favourite word at the moment) or gratuitous, and this one just toed the line, enough to make us pity Marnie, but not too much to bring us back to the real world.

The other characters, while not nearly as developed as Marnie or Anna, were all compelling in their own way. I really liked the Kiyomasa and Setsu, (the people who take Anna in at the countryside) if only because, in a world of ghost stories, they were a nice focal point for real life! Sayaka, Hisako and Tōichi were other favourites, all bringing something new to the table and in the case of Hisako and Tōichi, I just wanted to know more of their backstories.

Age rating wise, the film is advertised as a U but with some of the peril, they face I would've made it a PG. If you compare it to a PG animation - Moana, for example, I personally felt that When Marnie Was There should've been higher. Not to say it's not for younger kids, but just that it affected me more than Moana or Kubo and the Two Strings, both of which are PG's. Also, as said before, be ready to go along with some of the story - it will make sense in the end, but for example, I didn't realise that Marnie's blue eyes were any different to anyone else's!

The voice cast in the English dub was really strong and brought out the emotions of the characters well. Hallie Steinfeld especially, portrayed the multi-layered Anna really well, so that even when some of her actions seemed a bit mean, you sympathised with her. The song Fine on the Outside really worked too and encapsulated the film perfectly.

Finally, I have to talk a bit about the animation. Wow. I had to search after watching and check if any of the film was CGI (parts are I think, but correct me if I'm mistaken). The backgrounds and landscapes were blissful, the rain pouring down gave tension and the scene in the silo felt alive. It really was great.

Conclusion: a loving swan song to Studio Ghibli and a film which can stand on its own due to its well-developed characters, amazing animation, and touching story. Now to watch all the other Studio Ghibli films!

Rating: 90%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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