Review: Kiki’s Delivery Service at the Southwark Playhouse

An utterly delightful Christmas treat for us this year was seeing this stage adaptation of Kiki’s Delivery Service at the Southwark Playhouse in London. Continue reading Review: Kiki’s Delivery Service at the Southwark Playhouse

Review: When Marnie Was There (Studio Ghibli)

Widely publicised as the final feature film from legendary Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli, the gothic and mysterious When Marnie Was There shows what a great loss this would be.

The studio is most notably associated with co-founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, both of whom have announced their retirement. While neither of them have any credit on this, it is unmistakably recognisable as a Studio Ghibli movie (I cite my 4-year-old daughter’s reaction as proof).


This film is based on the Norfolk set novel by English writer Joan G. Robinson, and transposes the story to Sapporo in Japan. Anna is a 12-year-old who suffers from asthma and sometimes crippling anxiety. To aid her mental and physical health, she is sent to a seaside town to stay with relatives for the summer.

Her loner instincts initially remain, but she begins to form an intense relationship with the mysterious blonde girl Marnie, who lives in a mansion across the tidal marshes.


Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi – a Miyazaki apprentice – directed a previous Ghibli feature Arriety, also based on a classic English novel by a female author (The Borrowers by Mary Norton). But this is a far richer and more powerful tale, that will likely bring a tear to your eyes by the end.

Keen to offer my daughter alternatives to the princesses of Disney, Studio Ghibli has been a beacon of wonderful female characters. The troubled, timid Anna and the ethereal Marnie are both worthy additions to their range of engaging girls such as Kiki (Kiki’s Delivery Service), Satsuki & Mei (My Neighbour Totoro), Shizuku (Whisper of the Heart), Nausicaä (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind), Chihiro (Spirited Away), and more.


This emotionally intense tale will also fire the imagination of young minds, and despite it’s U certificate is a story of loss, resentment, heartbreak – and love. My 4-year-old daughter was visibly moved, and full of questions about the often melancholy tale at the end.

If you have yet to experience the wonder of Studio Ghibli, this is not the best place to start – depending on age, I would recommend any of the films mentioned above. But rest assured, when you come When Marnie Was There this will not disappoint.



‘When Marnie Was There’ is available on DVD and BluRay in the UK from STUDIOCANAL. We were sent a DVD copy for the purposes of this review.

Why I think Inside Out is One of Pixar’s Best Movies

John Lasseter, one of the founding directors of Pixar animation and the man behind some of their biggest hits, has always stated how inspired he was by the legendary Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki, and the films of Studio Ghibli which he helped set up. Both men have been responsible for some of the greatest animated movies created.

But there was one aspect that marked Miyazaki’s work apart from others, which Pixar failed to replicate – the prevalence of female protagonists.  The majority of Studio Ghibli movies had leading female characters, whereas Pixar movies had hardly any.

While Brave was an early attempt at a female led movie, it was with Inside Out that Pixar finally fulfilled their debt of inspiration to Miyazaki.

It’s hard to pick which character is actually the lead one of the movie. It’s about Reilly, an ice hockey loving 11-year-old girl whose family has just relocated from Minnesota to San Francisco, and who is just trying to fit in.

But for the most part, the movie takes place inside Reilly’s head (Inside Out – geddit?), and this is where the most likely candidate for female lead exists.

The crux of this story is that our emotions have personalities, and their competing demands for their way helps shape our personalities. Reilly’s most dominant personality is Joy, and she is voiced by one of my idols, Amy Poehler.

Joy pretty much controls what happens in Reilly’s head, while the likes of Fear, Anger, and Disgust all have their part to play. But it is the role of Sadness that comes to be the most problematic for Joy. Their struggle becomes the struggle for Reilly’s persona, and it resolves itself in a way that has enlightened me. I think it’s a sure sign of a great children’s film when it can inspire kids and adults alike.

The animation is bright, the script is sharp, the voice cast & performances are top notch, and to my mind this is one of the best Pixar movies ever. It truly is glorious, and made all the more gratifying because they have finally lived up to the promise of their love of Miyazaki  – and Studio Ghibli in general – and given us a wonderful fantastical tale with a little girl at its heart. And its head.

Inside Out and other great family movies are available to watch on NOW TV


Disclosure: I receive free access to NOW TV in exchange for blogging about the service. They also sent my daughter this Joy doll in exchange for this post.