Movie Review: When Marnie Was There is Studio Ghibli’s emotional but mechanical goodbye

There’s a lovely and fitting simplicity in 12-year-old Anna emerging as the heroine of When Marnie Was There, the last film from Japan’s Studio Ghibli animation house. (The company has placed production on hiatus while it reorganizes following the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki). Anna (voiced in the U.S. dub by Hailee Steinfeld) keeps to herself, distanced from the adoptive mother who she only calls “auntie,” and likes to draw, seeming to prefer the company of her sketch pad to most people. Early in the movie, she has an asthma attack, though the “condition” her foster parents refer to could easily be depression or social anxiety. The movie spends a lot of time with Anna on her own, wriggling out of social obligations and shunning any potential friends or sidekicks. It’s a portrait of a lonely artist as a young girl.

Following her asthma attack, Anna’s …

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