Viewed – 02 October 2016 Blu-ray
It’s with a heavy heart that I review this movie. You see, it’s officially the final film of the famed and I’d say culturally important animation house, Studio Ghibli. It’s a crying shame that the company chose to end, but at least I’m happy to say they’ve ended on a high with this wonderfully sweet and very heart-warming tale.
Anna, a teenage girl finds she can’t fit in with school or in general and is often sad and lost. After an asthma attack and a visit to the doctor however, her parents send her to stay with her aunt and uncle for the summer. Once there, still shy and struggling to enjoy the time away, she spots an old, abandoned mansion across the river and feels incredibly drawn to it. One night on visiting the mansion she see’s a young girl and the two of them quickly bond. But who is this girl? Is she real or just part of Anna’s imagination?
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (Arrietty) and based on the book by Joan G Robinson, this gently observed story is full of the as expected gorgeous hand-drawn animation with obsessive attention to detail and captivating, quirky characters. Anna is introverted and got her issues, whilst Marnie, the girl in the mansion is the exact opposite; free spirited and full of energy, but also hides her own troubles. I really enjoyed the mystery of this, the fantasy elements reminding me of that classic children’s tale The Secret Garden, and it was fun having my own ideas where it was all going. Yet the movie is clever enough to lead you in one direction then take a sudden turn that for me proved even more surprising … and rather powerful. It also got quite creepy in places and for a moment I wondered just how dark this story was going to get. Yet as a swansong for the famed studio, this may lack some of the absolute visual wonder of say Spirited Away but it’s more subtle yet no less engrossing story proved a worthy conclusion to an illustrious legacy.
I’m going to miss having new Ghibli to look forward to. Although I’m grateful they’ve given us such works of art, like this to cherish for years to come.
Verdict: 4 /5