Arrietty is the latest movie from famed, popular and acclaimed Japanese animators Studio Ghibli, with a screenplay by its beloved founder, Hayao Miyazaki. It is also an adaptation of English children’s book The Borrowers, so presents us with a wealth of tiny people, misunderstandings, persecution and tiny teacups that fill with a single drop.
So is it another masterpiece? Or one of the smaller entries in their canon?
Tiny Happy People
I’m pleased to report, immediately, that this film is adorable. Sweet, funny, the kind of children’s film that most western studios hardly ever make nowadays because they’re too busy cramming in the wisecracking and unwise pop culture jokes.
I love ironic self-referencing as much as the next internet user, but it’s come close to saturation point lately.
The plot is as predictable as the day is long , but that’s hardly the point here. The little touches, the way tiny Borrower characters battle their way over hostile domestic terrain, that’s what Arrietty is all about, and that’s probably what makes this a good match for Studio Ghibli, who render it all in luscious detail.
The characters are all beautifully emotive, but special mention here for Spiller, who appears in a handful of scenes, is virtually mute, yet still manages to steal the whole show somehow. What a guy.
Thanks to its adherence to source material, Arrietty doesn’t feature many of the crazier aspects sometimes seen in Japanese animation: no random energy bursts, sky fortresses or warthogs possessed by swarms of black leeches. In fact, it felt like a classic Disney film to me.
All of which might make it an easier sell in the western market, I suppose. I saw the film dubbed into English rather than subtitled, again making it simpler for us to digest, but leading to some odd disconnects, and some of the voice actors (especially Geraldine McEwan as Haru) seemed to be overplaying it at times.
Still, it’s a children’s movie, so I can forgive the occasional swing towards panto. It’s still a great example of the art form, probably the best kids’ film I’ve seen for a long time that didn’t have the word “Pixar” attached. If this happens to be playing anywhere near you, then go see it, take any children you can get your hands on.