For Reel


When Marnie Was There (2014)
June 12, 2015, 1:32 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
3.5 Stars
When Marnie Was ThereMany films from Studio Ghibli begin with characters arriving in a new location, a tangible reflection of their blossoming transition into becoming more independent, thoughtful individuals. The stakes of the transition in When Marnie Was There may very well be the highest. While each new residence in the previous films marked the potential for incredible growth and change, the coastal home in this case is a necessary refuge for Anna, a twelve-year-old girl who is plagued with abandonment issues and self-loathing. While to be an outsider in many stories is a sort of holy, privileged thing, what When Marnie Was There does best is in articulating the difficulties of feeling isolated from the world. Anna doesn’t so much learn to love herself by the end of the picture, but rather to cope and accept the hand she’s been dealt. The reason it’s not quite as successful as some of the studio’s best offerings is the distancing mechanics of the plot. Whereas films like Spirited Away and even My Neighbor Totoro progress with a certain organic, messy quality in which the themes of the story gradually reveal themselves, When Marnie Was There revolves around certain contrivances and inevitabilities that don’t match the untidiness of the age it’s capturing. Therefore, supporting characters like the silent fisherman and the mysterious painter don’t play like they live outside of Anna’s world, rather like they exist only as pieces to move her story along. Regardless, it’s as beautiful as anything the studio has produced, and the gothic tone is a nice answer to the studio’s more lighthearted offerings.



The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)
February 26, 2012, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

It is startling to watch the latest import from Studio Ghibli in an American multiplex. Prior to the feature, one is bombarded with trailer after trailer of children’s fare, often riddled with the same lame jokes, pop culture references, and a homogenized style of computer animation. Conversely, the calm serenity with which fantasy is treated in Ghibli’s best work – take, for instance, that magical sequence when Totoro appears at the bus station – sets an enchanting pace that caters to the imaginations of the young and the old alike. While The Secret World of Arrietty was not directed by Hayao Miyazaki – the masterful storyteller of Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke – veteran animator Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s first effort is worthy of the studio’s impressive track record. The picture is an adaptation of the 1952 Mary Norton book, The Borrowers, in which a miniature family lives underneath the floorboards of a house and “borrows” items from their human hosts. Early on in the film, Arrietty embarks on a “borrowing” with her father, and the sequence is a masterpiece of sound editing. Noises shift in tone and volume when cutting between the subjective perspective of the borrowers and the objective reality of the room as the audience, full-sized, understands it, and, more refreshingly considering the loud, cynical work of the lesser animation houses, Yonebayashi makes the most out of silence, contributing to the suspense with a nearly-noiseless soundtrack, containing only small footsteps and an ambient hum.