Star Rating:

When Marnie Was There

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Actors: Kasumi Arimura, Sara Takasuki

Release Date: Friday 10th June 2016

Genre(s): Animation

Running time: 103 minutes

After the misstep of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Studio Ghibli bounce back with their sweetest in some time. Adapted from British writer Joan G. Robinson's novel, When Marnie Was There, Hiromasa Yonebayashi's follow up to Arrietty, is an enchanting outing.

Kicking off like a teen movie, loner twelve-year-old Anna (Takasuki) sketches at the playground, watching the other kids enjoy each other's company. Alone and aloof, "I hate myself," she whispers. Worried that she’ll never grow out of this funk, her aunt sends her to a small coastal village to stay with her desperately uncool aunt and uncle and it's here she happens across a seemingly abandoned mansion on the shore, accessible across the marshes only by rowing boat. However, the mansion isn't empty: a girl of similar age, Marnie (Arimura), lives there with her distant parents and her cruel grandmother. But Marnie isn't like other girls – she can't stray too far from the mansion and dresses in clothes from a bygone era…

Almost a companion piece to Frozen - detailing the bond between two young girls who desperately need each other – and Inside Out, When Marnie Was There deals with friendship, abandonment issues, loneliness, depression, and ultimately forgiveness - big themes to explore for a children’s film. It remembers the importance of secrets and adventure and private universes. It beautifully recounts that first real friendship, which is almost like a first love, and the horrible feeling of rejection after a falling out. It also isn't afraid to let its heroine to be cruel at times, calling the overweight girl who tries to befriend her fat.

Typical of Ghibli, the hand-drawn animation is stunning with every shot awash with gorgeous colours (and no pop culture references, songs or flogging of apps/games/ toys to get in the way); these endless summer scenes can give way to darker situations, however, with a terrifying adventure to the spooky silo a highlight. Typical of the studio too, there's an inherent melancholy that dominates the proceedings, leading to a heart-tugging climax that will rival Pixar's saddest moments.

Haliee Stanfield, John C. Reilly, Kathy Bates, Geena Davis and Ellyn Burstyn lend their voices to the English language version.