When Marnie Was There

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Short takes

Not recommended under 10; parental guidance to 13 (disturbing scenes; themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for When Marnie Was There
  • a review of When Marnie Was There completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 18 May 2015.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to themes and some disturbing scenes.
Children aged 10–12 Parental guidance recommended due to themes.
Children aged 13 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: When Marnie Was There
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length: 103 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

When Marnie Was There is a Japanese anime film based on a novel of the same name. The film follows the story of Anna a 12-year-old girl who is living in foster care. She has very bad asthma, and is one day forced to move to a rural seaside town to spend the summer with relatives after she has a particularly bad episode. After exploring an abandoned mansion across the river from where she is staying, Anna has a dream about a blonde girl who lives there. 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 and when she visits the mansion again, it appears dilapidated and run-down once more.

Eventually, Anna hears from others that the mansion is being restored because a new owner will be 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 that is revealed in this journal helps Anna to discover Marnie’s identity and gives her a new perspective on her own life.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Abandoned children; death; identity and belonging.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

Marnie tells how the maids and nanny abused her as a child

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Anna suffers from asthma and is seen coughing and distressed.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

There are some scenes in this movie that could disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Anna discovers that Marnie was institutionalised and her daughter was forced to go to boarding school – her 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.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Some children in this age group may also be disturbed by Marnie’s story.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing further noted.

Product placement

None noted.

Sexual references

A schoolgirl refers to a man as a ‘perv’, as she attempts to convey that she is uncomfortable with the way he behaves around her.

Nudity and sexual activity

None noted.

Use of substances

There is mild use of substances in the film, including:

  • Several people smoke.
  • At one point, Anna gets herself a glass of wine and is then called a drunkard by Marnie.

Coarse language

None noted.

In a nutshell

When Marnie Was There is a haunting coming-of-age story of a young girl learning about her history and family. The film presents a discussion on the nature of life and death, and the manner in which life can be viewed in different ways. 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 these themes, and some disturbing scenes, the film is not recommended for children under 10, with parental guidance recommended for the 10 to 12 age group. It is being shown in two versions – dubbed or subtitled – and subtitles may present difficulties for younger viewers.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • The nature of the love between family members.
  • The importance of discovering one’s family history.
  • Not judging people before you get to know them, and always giving others the benefit of the doubt.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Issues related to death and mental health, and the impact that grief may have upon individuals.
  • The impact of childhood abandonment.
  • Living with a condition such as asthma.