FREELANCE WRITER. JOURNALIST, AND SCRIPT READER – FAN OF SCI-FI AND CHOCOLATE DIGESTIVES – YSTV'S BEST DRESSED MEMBER 2013

Thursday, 16 June 2016

On 16.6.16 by KieronMoore in , ,    No comments

I wasn’t prepared for just how powerful an exploration of depression When Marnie Was There would have. I was expecting some degree of fantasy-infused sadness, but from the opening sequences, in which Anna’s foster mother is concerned because of her lack of enthusiasm for socialising and the fact that “her face is always so ordinary” (i.e. she’s never emotive), it was clear there’s something more insightful here.

Anna is sent away to stay with the foster mum’s countryside relatives, and builds up a friendship with the mysterious Marnie, who lives in the old house by the water that’s at times a fabulous mansion and at other times derelict. The relationship between the two of them, as Anna begins to enjoy life again, is really, tear-jerkingly sweet, an emotional rollercoaster as old wounds are exposed and the two girls help each other heal. Perhaps too melodramatic for some, but I guess I’m soft at heart.

However, the final twist didn’t work so well for me…

…BIG SPOILERS IN THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH…

…I’ll be honest, I was reading the Anna/Marnie relationship as romantic. And then it’s revealed that Marnie is Anna’s grandmother. Whoops. That’s some Return of the Jedi-style retrospective incest there, at least how I’d been interpreting the film. And – while I admit this opinion is swayed by my own political desire to see more LGBT relationships on film – I reckon the story would be better off without that twist. It feels like it’s forcing a lot of plot elements together in that final act in order to make Anna and Marnie ‘connected’, when really, the relationship that they’d developed just through being two troubled souls helping each other out was a beautiful and natural connection in itself.

Still, there are a lot of really beautiful scenes in When Marnie Was There (though the ones I read as romantic may not work so well on rewatch…) and the exploration of Anna’s depression is surprisingly layered for a U-certificate movie. If Studio Ghibli really aren’t making any more features, then that’s a great loss for cinema.

Side note: during the screening I attended, the image kept suddenly going slightly dimmer and then brightening again over the next half minute or so. Thinking this was a problem with the projector, I mentioned it to the cinema staff on my way out. Turns out the problem was the version of the film they had, which had arrived like this. Which is a bit rubbish. Anyone know if this is happening elsewhere?

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