Starring: Mirai Shida, Ryunosoke Kamiki, Tomokazu Miura
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Running Time: 95 mins
The Secret World Of Arrietty is a Japanese film about a family of little people, known as Borrowers, living beneath a house. Arrietty, a 14 year old Borrower, begins to venture out into the wider world, with all of the perils that human beans pose, until she meets a young boy, who chooses to protect her.
This isn’t Ghibli’s best film, but it perfectly sums up why I love them so much. Based on the story of the Borrowers, this takes an imaginative and serene concept, and keeps it completely grounded. In contrast to what any Hollywood studio would do with the genre, Arrietty is a relaxing, peaceful and simply enjoyable film, an atmosphere furthered by its beautiful soundtrack and gorgeous animation.
Think about it, if modern Hollywood put out another Borrowers movie (not including the 1997 John Goodman one), it would be all about a big story where the little people get swept away to the big city, and we’d get a succession of CGI, toilet jokes and (more likely than not) animal control.
But with Arrietty, Studio Ghibli keep everything completely down-to-earth, which makes for a very rewarding payoff. First off, the entire film is set inside one house in the countryside. There’s no need for it to go over the top, because director Hiromasa Yonebayashi manages to create an even more vibrant and exciting world in that small space.
What I loved most about this film was that it used the Borrowers story, and made it feel imaginative. In the house, the little people have their own small home, as well as a series of staircases and transport systems in and around all the nooks and crannies of the building. You know that could never happen, but because this film recognises that it is just a fairytale, you can sit back and lose yourself in the magical world it creates.
As always with Studio Ghibli, we have to talk about the animation. Normally, I say it’s beautiful, but with The Secret World Of Arrietty, I really really mean it. Again, despite having such a small setting, the film is always teeming with life. There are some astonishingly beautiful shots of the house’s garden, all hand-drawn and painted in watercolour, but what’s even more amazing is when we get to see everything up close and in wonderful detail as the little people make their way through the world.
This really is a stunning film to look at, and the animation is the most important aspect to making this such a serene and pleasant watch. However, you also have to look to the delightful soundtrack. Just like the theme from My Neighour Totoro, Arrietty has its own beautiful theme song, which is the centrepiece of an excellent, relaxing and magical soundtrack, which really emphasises how pleasant this film is.
It’s not a perfect movie, however, and the main reason why it can’t quite be put up there with Ghibli’s best is because the story is, at times, a little bland. The first act is amazing, as is the emotional finale, but on some occasions in the middle portion, I wasn’t feeling too much from the film. It’s not a boring film by any means, and I’d much rather this serene, grounded story than anything to extravagant, but for a lot of the film, don’t expect a huge emotional payoff, because it’s just not there.
Overall, The Secret World Of Arrietty is an absolute delight. With a charmingly relaxed and down-to-earth story, amazing animation and a wonderful soundtrack, it’s so easy to fall in love with this film, so that’s why I’ll give it an 8.0.