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When Marnie Was There /Omoide no Mānī

8/10

Stars: Voices (Japanese version: Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura, Nanako Matsushima, Susumu Terajima, Toshie Negishi, Ryoko Moriyama, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Hitomi Kuroki.

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi.

Now that computer-created animation dominates cinema, Studio Ghibli’s atmospheric, hand-animated and, reportedly, final film for a while, is a true visual pleasure.

Intriguingly, in adapting English author Joan G Robinson’s original novel for the screen director Hiromasa Yonebayashi and co-scenarists Keiko Niwa and Masashi Ando have shifted the action from Norfolk to Japan where emotionally-troubled tomboyish but asthma-prone adolescent Marnie is failing to fit in with her fellow school students in Tokyo.

Her life changes when she is sent to live with relatives on rural Hokkeido island where, free to roam in the countryside, she discovers a mysterious waterside mansion where she meets, befriends and becomes fixated on the young girl living there.

But soon she begins to wonder where her newfound friend is really what she appears to be…

Yonebayashi endows his story with a genuine warmth and character-driven truth that gives the fate of his (beautifully animated) characters unaffected reality, which is something I have found to be relatively rare in animated movies, and he never allows the animation to overpower character or narrative.

(I watched the subtitled version but have no doubt that even dubbed, When Marnie Was There would still pack a powerful and emotional punch).

There was one aspect though which I found to be a tad incongruous.

The original story takes place in England and here the majority of the characters are clearly Occidental rather than Oriental, despite the Japanese settings.

But maybe the fact that one of the credited production companies for this was Disney Japan accounts for this?

Alan Frank

Japan 2014. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour.
103 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 19 Jun 2016