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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Anna's journey teaches viewers about the importance of self esteem and of valuing those who love you, even if they aren't related to you by blood.
Positive Role Models
Anna's foster mother and aunt/uncle love her and want her to find her self worth. Anna struggles with her identity (and makes some iffy choices), but she finally comes to terms with who she is, where she comes from, and how she fits into her family. Marnie makes Anna happy and feel loved.
Violence & Scariness
Anna pulls a knife on a girl who's bothering her. She has an asthma attack early in the film. Some falls/bruises, and a scary sequence set in an old, decrepit silo during a storm.
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Anna uses insult language, often but not always in reference to herself: "fat pig," "ugly," "stupid," "pathetic," "unpleasant," "moody." Anna says that she hates herself more than once.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink at a party, and an adult offers Anna a glass of wine. Some smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that When Marnie Was There is possibly the last film produced by Japan's legendary Studio Ghibli, now that master animator/studio co-founder Hayao Miyazaki has retired. An adaptation of a British children's book by Joan G. Robinson, the slow-paced story focuses on Anna, a sad, lonely, self-hating foster child whose only friend is a mysterious girl who lives in a supposedly abandoned mansion. There's some insult language ("fat pig," "pathetic"), some scary scenes in an old silo, and a moment of threatened violence (Anna pulls a knife on a girl who's bothering her), as well as one scene in which an adult offers Anna a drink of wine at a party. But otherwise the movie is fine for tweens who can handle the themes, pace, and plot twists. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is an interesting, beautifully animated story about a fragile, self-deprecating young girl. But it's also very slow-moving, occasionally confusing, and in certain scenes too emotional to compel younger audiences used to action-packed plots or clear story lines with relatable characters. Though kids may not be the target audience at all, of course, since Studio Ghibli films are beloved by adult animation aficionados.
But even the biggest Ghibli devotee will have to concede that, while visually pretty and sometimes touching, When Marnie Was There lacks something as well. It's not going to stand among Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Howl's Moving Castle as the best the legendary studio has produced. Even if you divorce yourself from the outrageous expectations that every Ghibli film be a masterpiece, When Marnie Was There is undeniably more style than substance. It's still absolutely worth checking out for its gothic elements of the is-she-or-isn't-she ghost story, but it isn't a case of saving the best for last.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.