Film #128: When Marnie Was There (2014)

IMG_2560.PNGaka: 思い出のマーニー (Omoide no Mānī)
Director: Yonebayashi Hiromasa
Language: Japanese
Length: 110 minutes
Watched on: 23 October 2014

This film marks a little milestone for me because it’s the first time I’ve been to the cinema to watch a film all in Japanese without subtitles. My mother wanted to see it on someone’s recommendation, and for her it was just complete gibberish. For me, it went reasonably successfully.

I had already had the main twist spoiled for me by being too curious about something someone had tagged as a spoiler in their review, so to be fair, I knew what I was listening out for in the first place, but I was quite pleased with myself after finishing the movie. In any case, the movie was mostly visual and very easy to understand, at least for the most part. There were some parts that I just didn’t catch, like why the aviary on the hill comes into play, or what exactly the main character’s family situation is or why she was staying in the countryside.

It’s also significant because at first glance it’s the first Ghibli film to feature LGBT characters – although after the twist at the end of the film, this carpet is ripped quite firmly out from under the feet of any hopeful viewers. Mainly this is due to the very obvious and intense relationship between the two girls, but it’s also possible to read the main character Anna as transgender – indeed, I thought she was a boy from the poster – although I think this may be reading between the lines. She’s very introverted and obviously depressed, and prone to lashing out, and it’s obvious too that the adults don’t know how to deal with her.

The story has a few fantastical elements, and I found it enjoyable. However, it tries to play with your emotions, and does so mostly in a rather simplistic way. I’m not totally convinced it manages, really. It wasn’t bad, but I think it tried too hard in some ways.

As always, this being a Studio Ghibli film, the best part about it is the visuals. The backgrounds can only be described as lush, and there is great attention to detail, albeit perhaps not as much as Miyazaki’s movies. I liked it a lot, but as usual, it doesn’t quite match up to the more famous works by Ghibli. Anyway, here’s hoping Studio Ghibli gets back on track soon and stops being melodramatic with all these announcements of retiring and hiatus…


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