This year I watched When Marnie was There. The experience is best described as an emotional gut punch followed by a hug.

It’s not easy to watch Anna’s struggles if you’re not at peace with yourself. Like Anna, I find it hard to talk to people, I have trouble starting and maintaining close friendships, and social situations drain the life out of me. As such, there are days where I struggle with my self-esteem. Unsurprisingly, I found it suffocating watching her struggle with similar issues I grapple with.

There was one sequence in that film that continues to haunt me with its heartbreaking accuracy. I remember watching it and wanting to jump at the screen yelling “that’s exactly me!” The sequence in question is when Marnie invites Anna to her party. Let’s take a look:

The film has a panning shot of the crowd, making the claustrophobia a lot more clear

Marnie tells her guests to buy some flowers from Anna, and they flock around her. The camera then switches to a claustrophobic first-person point of view, panning around a blurry crowd laughing and reaching in as they surround Anna.

At least in my experiences, it’s not the people that cause the discomfort, but rather being at the center of attention. So no wonder Anna dashes out of the crowd to the sanctuary of the walls. And, just for good measure, she pulls her hood over her head to help her disappear better.

Please don’t notice me…
Also note how the background characters slide right over Anna, showing how well she’s disappeared from everyone’s attention

Once at the walls, Anna is safe to watch the rest of the party: exactly what I do for most of the social gatherings I attend. Unfortunately for Anna, she witnesses her only friend (for people like us, friends don’t come easily) make fluid conversation with another person. I can’t presume to know what happens inside Anna’s mind, but at moments like these I feel a pang of irrational betrayal and jealousy. How dare they be so socially adroit, when I can barely survive being in the presence of strangers? And then I berate myself for even thinking that way, and feel even more terrible.

What right do they have to socialize with other people? Why can’t I be like them?

Finally, we arrive at a shot I know too well: exhausted from the hubbub, Anna slinks away from the crowd for some peace and quiet (granted, she is drunk, so I may have projected a bit of myself on to her, but I think my point still stands).

Peace and quiet

Thus concludes a painful sequence. Honestly, the entire movie was incredibly difficult to sit through, but I’m glad the film chose to portray Anna’s struggles in a sympathetic light. Hence, when Anna learned to get along better with herself, I felt a hint of encouragement. If she can do it, so can I.

You can read about the 12 Days of Anime challenge in my intro post here.