Human beings are dangerous. If we’re seen, we have to leave. My parents said so.
Arrietty is the latest film from Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli and brings with it the distinction of not being directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Instead it’s directed by Hiromasa Yoneybashi who does a splendid job of adapting Mary Norton’s children’s book The Borrowers.
Arrietty tells the story of borrowers, or “little people”; a family that dwells beneath a house and fend for themselves by borrowing objects that humans won’t notice. Their existence is threatened when a young boy called Shô spots Arrietty not once but twice and over the course of the film they develop a relationship that brings out their best and most altruistic characteristics.
What’s impressive about Arrietty is the emotion generated throughout. The emotional beats are well done, with Shô gaining the trust of Arrietty and Arrietty learning that not all humans should be feared. Shô is just as vulnerable as Arrietty due to a heart defect that requires an operation. The friendship between the two is touching, creating a sense of wonder and curiosity between them that you wouldn’t expect from an animated feature.
It’s all handled in a very serene manner with a sprinkling of humour in the form of Shô’s caretaker, who threatens the existence of the borrowers when she attempts to capture them.
The sense of scale that’s established is also impressive. Yoneybashi takes advantage of the size difference with the borrowers dwarfed by their surroundings creating a palpable sense of danger whenever they step out into unknown territory.
The ending is bittersweet but also happy and hopeful. While it’s not as good as the best Ghibli has to offer (a very high bar) it’s a charming tale filled with some beautiful animation. With most, if not all of the multiplexes filled with 3D CG cartoons, Arrietty is a welcome break from the norm.
Arrietty is out on DVD in the UK