When your part of a wonderful legacy and you’re looking to pass on the torch you always want to make sure whoever picks that torch up is worthy of doing so. Studio Ghibli the animation house Hayao Miyazaki & Isao Takahata built was always going to be a mammoth task for whatever new pretender stepped forward, but if we go with what the studio’s latest creation Arrietty we can certainly say the torch will be in safe hands and will be glowing for a long time to come.
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, co-written by Hayao Miyazaki, Arrietty is an adaptation of the classic Mary Norton children’s novel. The Borrowers tells the tale of Arrietty a young girl tiny in size who lives under the floorboards of country house with her parents Pod and Homily who survive by borrowing things from people’s homes, the little things that we wouldn’t notice if they went missing, also making sure they don’t get noticed by humans either.
Now 14 years old Arrietty is keen to explore see more of the fascinating world her father explores every day and soon she will join her father on her first borrowing for tissue and sugar. In the house, the borrower’s live in lives and elderly woman Sadako along with her interfering maid Haru and they are joined by Sadako’s great nephew Sho who is sent to the house to relax, wait for an important operation as he has a heart condition. Arrietty excited to be joining her father in a borrow things are looking good for the pair until they go for the tissue when Sho spots Arrietty.Despite been warned about not to trust the ‘human beans’ Arrietty bonds an unlikely friendship with Sho which grows by the day but with Haru determined to expose the existence of the small people the safety of Arrietty and her family is decreasing putting them in danger making them consider to move away again.
Arrietty is nothing but impressive but then again Studio Ghibli rarely disappoints. As the film world seems to rely more on digital/3d effects to entice people into cinemas, Studio Ghibli opt for traditional hand drawn style which is great to see as well as refreshing to see animators haven’t forgotten the basic fundamentals. Even the so called biggest animation house in the world Disney haven’t abandoned the old ways recently seen in Frog and The princess and this summer will be seen in the Scottish based Brave, it’s also a desire by many films fans too that maybe studio would opt for more quality in live action rather than everything been 3D too.
This film is a visually well crafted story, Stunningly beautiful, the detail and the sound is just wonderful. The attention to detail is second to none, from the borrower’s house which has postage stamps as wall paintings, outsized pen lids as flower jars, even pins as swords, we even see Pod using double sided tape on his boots to help him climb up a table to get the sugar.To get a sense of the size of the Borrowers we even see Arrietty play with a woodlouse like it’s a ball, see her race against crickets and for the dangers she is nearly taken by a cockroach. There is also a scene when Arrietty is nearly caught by a crow which crashes into Sho’s window mesh which highlight’s also the scale of things along as well as the brilliant sound which you can also hear in the rain storm scene too, nothing but magic to the ears.
I always remember when a so called film fan friend said to me “those dodgy Japanese cartoons won’t get far”, he said that months before Ghibli won the Oscar for Spirited Away for a studio producing ‘cartoons that won’t last’ that’s an achievement any animation studio would dream for! There is also the small matter that Disney distribute Ghibli films in USA (Studio Canal in UK& Ireland)must say something in the studio’s stature which has got bigger year by year that they now can afford to have casting also for UK only version, even a USA one which in the past would have been just English language version.The UK version had Saoirse Ronan (Arrietty), Mark Strong (Pod), Olivia Coleman (Homily) and Tom Holland (Sho).
Arrietty is a beautifully crafted film which may not possess all the elements you expect from a Studio Ghibli film but that’s not a negative thing. Some may call this a kids film which may be true in some levels however as this is based on a children’s book that’s been loved by many generations it does have that universal charm which will pull in children of all ages. This may not be Spirited Away or one of the fantastic older titles from the Studio Ghibli catalogue, Arrietty is a film that won’t disappoints and will be adored for years to come.
★★★★★ | Paul Devine
Anime, Fantasy, Family | Japan, 2010 | U | 09 January 2012 (UK) | Studiocanal, Studio Ghibli | Dir.Hiromasa Yonebayashi | Mark Strong, Olivia Coleman, Saoirse Ronan