"When Marnie Was There" - Studio Ghibli
I watched this movie for the first time this past week. My 7yr old was captivated enough to stay awake well past his bedtime and is still talking about it today, a few days later.
Featuring a stellar voice cast (with well-known voices such as Kathy Bates, John C. Reilly, and Geena Davis, among others), When Marnie Was There is largely populated by female characters, yet somehow manages to avoid the usual "girl movie" tropes.
A bittersweet and poignant exploration of what is family, and how we connect to others, it follows Anna as she explores who she is and where she fits into her world -- discovering along the way that sometimes we are blinded by our circumstances and miss seeing that we have been on the right path all along. It also explores the idea that life is complicated and sometimes things don't unfold like a fairy tale, but we can choose to face those challenges with a smile and a happy heart, or we can get bogged down in the details and miss seeing all the loveliness that we do have in our lives.
I won't lie. I cried. I cried more than once. My 7yr old was a little teary, too, at times. It isn't a happy movie, but it isn't a sad one either. It has a credibility to it that conventional Western animated films lack -- the ending isn't as tidy or emotionally satisfying as a Disney movie, but it resonates with a realness that lingers long after the credits have rolled.
Some people might find the movie drags or is slow, and if you're expecting a North American style animated film this is a valid criticism. It does have a slowness -- a wistfulness -- in the speed with which it unfolds, but I appreciated this lack of rush. The scenes are long, instead of short, choppy, and action-packed -- giving time for emotions to catch up with the action. My 7yr old commented on the longer scenes -- neither positive or negative, just that they were longer than other movies he has watched.
He liked that it was a movie with girls, but not about "girl things". He gave that two big thumbs up. There were no girls overcoming adversity or trying to be like the boys, and there were also no girls trapped in a romantic story line or needing to be rescued (or rescue themselves). It could have easily had all the roles replaced by male characters and still made as much sense, but he appreciated that it wasn't.
If you watched this film and it wasn't quite enough, you might want to check out the book. I haven't read it, but am adding it to my "To Read" list.