Starring (English cast): Hailee Steinfeld, Kiernan Shipka, John C. Reilly, Geena Davis, Kathy Bates
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Written by: Keiko Niwa, Masashi Ando and Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Novel by: Joan G. Robinson
Genre(s): Animation, Drama, Family
No spoilers here!
Studio Ghibli’s latest animated movie, WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE (WMWT), is an extraordinary 2D animated piece of work; a masterpiece of visual storytelling with amazing and beautiful drawn/painted scenes. While I was watching it, it made my head dizzy to think about the thousands of hours of work it took to produce this movie. Director HIROMASA YONEBAYASHI spent over four years to complete the screenplay, storyboards and 80,000 frames of animation.
WMWT was one of the most emotional and heart-felt films I’ve seen this past decade and possibly, one of the most emotional movies I’ve ever seen. (I’m not going to admit I cried though.) I was totally blind-sided on what to expect with this movie.
Unlike American animators, Studio Ghibli knows how to make compelling animated family movies involving humans instead of monsters, robots and talking planes… not that there’s anything wrong with that. If you read my other blog postings, you know I love sci-fi. However, I’ve grown tired of seeing over two decades worth of 3D CGI animated movies being produced in the states. For me a good story takes precedent over visual effects and the meaningless eye candy jam packed into these types of animated movies. Quite frankly, I don’t take care how “real” an explosion looks in these 3D CGI animations.
I appreciate the effort, but it adds nothing in creating a captivating story. Additionally, these American animated movies suffer from ADD, and even ADHD — way too many edits and way too much excitement. The barrage of gimmicks flashed on the screen to keep our attention is quite appalling. A solid story, coupled with an emotional center you can root for, is what makes a great movie great.
As for WMWT, it is the farthest away from sci-fi, monsters or talking planes you can get. It’s about a girl named ANNA who’s a loner and suffers from asthma. One summer she visits relatives living a seaside town where the air is crisp and clean. During her stay, she befriends a mysterious blond-haired girl named MARNIE living in a vacant marsh house. Both are lonely souls.
And that’s all I am going to write to make sure no spoilers are revealed.
Before I sign off, I would like to acknowledge WMWT’s lovely musical score composed by TAKATSUGU MURAMATSU. Amazingly, at the time he wrote Anna’s theme and the rest of these musical cues, there was no artwork available; Only words on paper and script notes from director TAKATSUGU MURAMATSU. If you collect soundtracks like I do, I highly recommend adding this to your collection.
Also to note, there’s a song featured in the movie called “FINE ON THE OUTSIDE” written and performed by PRISCILLA AHN. Her smooth voice is near perfection and this song is a perfect compliment with WMWT’s emotional experience. Furthermore, there’s a companion album produced by her called “JUST KNOW I LOVE YOU”
which has tracks inspired by the movie. I highly recommend acguiring this album too.
With the retirement of master animator Hayao Miyazaki (announced in 2013), Studio Ghibli’s future is uncertain. If WMWT ends up being the last feature film produced by this studio, what a grand and beautiful way to end thirty years of producing masterpieces.