What it’s about: When Marnie Was There is the story of, Anna, a young asthmatic foster child who is sent for the summer to live with relatives by the sea following an asthma attack. Although Anna’s asthma is a concern, having noticed her tendency to withdraw and build emotional barriers around herself, her step mother is more concerned with Anna’s delicate emotional state. Marnie, the titular character, befriends Anna shortly after her arrival; however, as Anna soon discovers, things are not quite what they seem with the beautiful and mysterious Marnie.
What I like about it. When Marnie Was There has a way of keeping it real while simultaneously building an incredible fantasy world to get lost in. The protagonist isn’t a robot or a monster or an anthropomorphized car trying to win the big race or save the world. It’s a pre-teen girl struggling to understand a complex relationship with her foster mother and overcome crippling social anxieties stemming from a negative sense of self-worth. “Supernatural elements aside,” says Kerry Lengel in his review for the Arizona Republic, “the heart of the story is a portrait of a frightened girl who learns to heal her fragile heart by building connections, both to her past and to the community around her.” It is the supernatural element; however, that moves the story forward. The plot, while not altogether novel, isn’t predictable either, and the story overall benefits tremendously from the old-school hand drawn animation.
Recommended for fans of Studio Ghibli, G-Kids Films, hand-drawn animation, and anyone curious to see just how engaging and thoughtful young adult fiction can be that doesn’t involve death matches or warring factions of vampires and lycanthropes.