still from Studio Ghibli's When Marnie Was There
Anna (left) and Marnie (right) from When Marnie Was There (2014), Studio Ghibli’s animated film adaptation of Joan G. Robinson’s novel of the same name.

I don’t normally watch movies, but for the Studio Ghibli’s animated film adaption of Joan G. Robinson’s When Marnie Was There (1967), I was willing to make an exception.

The film revolves around twelve-year-old Anna Sasaki, a shy girl who is insecure about her appearance, and considers herself as an outcast amongst her peers. Something that most girls, myself included, can relate to when we are around than age.
We soon learn that Anna’s insecurities stem from the discovery that her foster parents are actually paid to take care of her by the government, thereby making her question if they truly loved her at all.

Under the advice of a doctor, Anna is soon sent away to stay with some relatives in a seaside town. This is where she meets Marnie, a girl that lives in the marsh house, who only Anna appears to see. Through their secret interactions, Anna and Marnie open up to each other, often confiding their secrets. Something Anna was never able to do before as she always believed she had nobody to turn to. And almost immediately, you can see the difference in Anna’s behaviour as she becomes a much happier person.

A lesson this film teaches us is that we shouldn’t always keep our problems and insecurities all to ourselves. That sometimes it’s alright to open to others; to be honest about how we really feel because every now and then, we can gain the closure that we need. This is something that Anna was able to have towards the end of the film, as she learns her foster parents do cherish her as their own and had not meant to keep the payments a secret from her; and that she was not abandoned like she always believed she had been. In actuality, Anna had been very loved by both her birth parents and grandmother before they died.

When Anna learns the truth, she is finally able to come to terms with her past and comes out of it at peace with who she is. She found it within herself to forgive both her foster-mother, who had kept the payments a secret from her, as well as Marnie, who was actually her grandmother, who was never able to forgive herself for leaving Anna behind all alone.

Overall, the film is touching piece of work that I would recommend all girls to watch. Anna’s journey to accepting herself is inspirational, and one that many girls can relate to. As we have either been on that journey of acceptance ourselves, or will be on one, whether it’s in the past, present or future.

-Janice Yap
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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