What may wind up being the final film from Studio Ghibli comes across as more whimper than bang, an excruciatingly simple story about an asthmatic foster child who wishes for a more normal life. Anna — long of neck, short of hair, pointy of chin — is a sour, sickly girl who hates herself for being sour and sickly; you can tell because she sometimes says rude things and because she tells you so. (This is a film where nearly every emotion and dynamic is named and announced, every noteworthy moment greeted with an inquisitive "Huh?") But after a severe attack necessitates a trip to the clean-aired country, she meets Marnie, the mysterious girl who lives in the mansion at the edge of the marsh. There's some weirdness around her new friend — dreams bleeding into reality, strange disappearances, etc. — but it doesn't matter. Until it does. The eventual prickles of interest subside into a comfortable, wholly expected, and exposition-heavy conclusion. Dramatically unworthy of its gorgeous coastal landscapes and ever-shifting light. (2015) — Matthew Lickona
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