Story

When Marnie Was There is a Japanese anime movie based on a novel of the same name. The movie is about Anna, a 12-year-old girl living in foster care. She has very bad asthma. After a severe asthma attack, she is forced to move to a rural seaside town to spend the summer with relatives. While there Anna explores an abandoned mansion across the river from where she is staying, and has a dream about a blonde girl who lives in the mansion. She rows across the river to the mansion and there meets Marnie, the girl from her dream. 

Marnie invites Anna to a party at the mansion, which appears to be renovated and full of life at the time. Later that night, Anna is found asleep near the Post Office. When she visits the mansion again, it seems dilapidated and run-down again. 

Eventually, Anna hears from others that the mansion is being restored because a new owner is moving in. The new owner, Sayaka, discovers a journal written by Marnie hidden away in the mansion, and shares the details with Anna when she visits. The story in this journal helps Anna to discover Marnie’s identity and gives Anna a new perspective on her own life.

Themes

Abandoned children; death; identity and belonging

Violence

There is no direct violence in When Marnie Was There. But in one scene Marnie tells how the maids and a nanny abused her as a child.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5
When Marnie Was There has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example, Anna suffers from asthma and is seen coughing and distressed.

From 5-8
When Marnie Was There has some scenes that could disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • Anna discovers that Marnie was institutionalised and her daughter was forced to go to boarding school. Marnie’s daughter blamed Marnie for abandoning her.
  • There are references to Marnie’s daughter and her husband dying in a car accident.
  • Marnie talks to Anna about how the maids at the mansion mistreated her, and abused her both physically and psychologically. 

From 8-13
Some children in this age group might also be disturbed by Marnie’s story.

Over 13
Nothing of concern

Sexual references

When Marnie Was There has some sexual references, including when a schoolgirl refers to a man as a ‘perv’, as she tries to explain that she’s uncomfortable with the way he behaves around her. 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

When Marnie Was There shows some mild use of substances. For example: 

  • Several people smoke.
  • At one point, Anna gets herself a glass of wine, and Marnie calls her a drunkard. 

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

None of concern

Ideas to discuss with your children

When Marnie Was There is a haunting coming-of-age story about a young girl learning about her history and family. 

Anna learns that her history involves a great deal of tragedy but also strength, perseverance and unconditional love. By discovering things about her past, Anna becomes more able to open up to the possibilities of her life ahead. 

Because of its themes and some disturbing scenes, When Marnie Was There is not recommended for children under 10 years. We also recommend parental guidance for children aged 10-13 years. The movie is being shown in two versions – dubbed or subtitled – and subtitles might present difficulties for younger viewers.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include the:

  • nature of the love between family members
  • importance of discovering your family history
  • importance of always giving other people the benefit of the doubt and not judging them.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like:

  • death, mental health and grief 
  • childhood abandonment
  • life with a chronic condition like asthma.