Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Featuring the voices of: Amy Poehler, Will Arnett and Mirai Shida
Running time: 94 minutes (Japanese with English subtitles)
By Robert O’ Reilly
Arrietty, the new film from Studio Ghibli (whose previous efforts include Howl’s Moving Castle and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away), is perhaps not up there with the Japanese animation studio’s very best work but it’s still a pretty decent effort nonetheless.
Based on Mary Norton’s immensely popular novel The Borrowers, the film centres around the Clocks, a family of ‘little people’ who live hidden in the confines of an old country house, and who secretly take (or ‘borrow’ as they like to call it) food and materials at night-time from their more normal-sized co-inhabitants.
After being discovered by Sho, a sick boy whose divorced parents have offloaded him to his Aunt Sadoko’s house, the diminutive family (daughter Arrietty and parents Pod and Homily), set their sights on moving to a new and safer location. Sho, who starts to fall head over heels for Arrietty, wants to let the family stay in his Aunt’s house but nosy maid Haru has other plans and attempts to capture them for herself.
A story about acceptance, impossible love and having the will to move on in life when things are just not working out your way, Arrietty is a deeply emotional and remarkably sentimental, simple-as-folk, modern-day fairytale. Although the film exudes what could only be described as a kind of cartoon spirituality and also an all-pervading niceness throughout, its main problem is that it’s simply too sweet and soft-hearted for its own good, which lessens the impact of the story at certain times. Some of the characters are also a bit too one-dimensional and could have been better realised, but the animation itself has been given lots of love and attention and is beautifully rendered at all times (something we have come to expect from the highly talented folk at Studio Ghibli). While always appearing wonderfully colourful, the gorgeous animation is never too over the top but is always a pleasure to look at.
This is not the first time that Norton’s novel has hit the big screen, 1997’s non-animated The Borrowers taking that particular plaudit and there’s also a new TV series starring Stephen Fry and Christopher Eccleston in the pipeline. Although the story itself obviously still has some production value left in it, Arrietty tends to run out of steam a little bit and the film finishes with somewhat of a whimper in the end.