SUPPOSEDLY, this is the last Studio Ghibli film we're getting. Financial difficulties and the retirement of the studio's founder, Hayao Miyazaki (admittedly, he has "retired" many times), have put the beloved animation studio on hiatus. One could argue, though, that the studio really died once it shifted focus from bizarre, original projects to making movies out of well-known children's books. In 2010, Ghibli director Hiromasa Yonebayashi refashioned The Borrowers into The Secret World of Arrietty, and now he's adapted When Marnie Was There, a British children's book by Joan G. Robinson.
If you can get past the awkwardness of a name like "Marnie," When Marnie Was There is a sweet adventure about a young girl consumed by confusion over her tragic childhood. Strangely—though perhaps not unexpectedly, given the studio's past strengths—the plot is outshone by the visuals, from scenes of children at a Tanabata festival to a the strikingly animated sight of a character standing in long grass.
Given Ghibli's genre-busting, classic-laden history, the choice to end this era of the studio with When Marnie Was There is sort of a flat note—but if you can forget that for a while, the movie's a great little mystery about kids and all the emo shit they put themselves through.