Since the release of Spirited Away in 2001, Studio Ghibli has been slowly gaining more and more fans across the world, or at least in the UK. Known mainly for their sweeping fantasy epics, they’ve also released a number of more grounded, realistic films, and When Marnie Was There promises to be just that. Well, sort of. There are no creatures or magical worlds, but there are mysterious elements – something Ghibli’s films almost always rely on. Could this be the latest in a long line of great animated films?

Anna is a girl who is struggling both socially and with her health. When her illness gets particularly bad, she’s sent away to live with her aunt and uncle, who live well outside the city. When exploring the area around her new home, she discovers an old, abandoned house that’s just across a marsh. After visiting the mansion multiple times, she starts to become obsessed with a girl who lives there, or at least she thinks she lives there…

When Marnie Was There Review

It only took a few seconds for this film to hook me in. The animation style is so iconic, recognisable, and just wonderful to look at that this film was at an automatic advantage, simply from how it looks. This doesn’t let up, as the animation continues to be gorgeous right through to the final shot of the film, with any frame featuring water being particularly special. It’s just a shame the rest of the film doesn’t quite work.

As I said in the intro, this film has a lot of mysterious elements and a story that slowly unfolds through the film’s runtime. The problem is that a lot of interesting possible story threads and outcomes are set up, but the film doesn’t use any of them, instead opting for a plot that left me wondering why they chose to do what they did. It’s not a completely unoriginal story, but it is one that could have done so much more. This is a film that’s based on a book, however, I believe a little more deviation from the source material might have benefited the transition from page to screen.