As far as Thumbelina-esque stories go, this Studio Ghibli effort doesn’t break new ground, but its attention to detail and little moments of heartfelt emotions keep it engaging.
Dir. Hiromasa Yonebayashi
2010 | Japan | Animation/Adventure/Family | 94 mins | 1.85:1 | Japanese
G (passed clean)
Cast: Mirai Shida, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Tomokazu Miura, Kirin Kiki
Plot: 14-year-old Arrietty and the rest of the Clock family live in peaceful anonymity as they make their own home from items “borrowed” from the house’s human inhabitants. However, life changes for the Clocks when a human boy discovers Arrietty.
Source: Studio Ghibli
Subject Matter: Light
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Mainstream
The first animated feature by the director of When Marnie Was There (2014), The Secret World of Arrietty should charm younger kids more than adults. The film is about a young girl named Arrietty and her parents who live underneath a house owned by humans.
They are no more than the size of a cricket and call themselves the Borrowers, where they secretly steal (a term they will surely detest) items for survival. In one of the film’s most suspenseful sequences, Arrietty and her father plot a heist of a cube of sugar and a piece of tissue paper.
Arrietty is a Studio Ghibli-lite effort, visually stunning with its attention to detail but as far as Thumbelina-esque stories go, it doesn’t break new ground. Arrietty is seen by a young human boy and this begins a chain of events that would lead to major changes in the lives of the Borrowers.
“Arrietty, you’re a part of me now. I’ll never forget you, ever.”
There are little moments of heartfelt emotions that Ghibli is very good at, though for me, the most engaging parts are the scenes of perspectival immersion that come from viewing the world as a minute being.
It might be a stretch to draw too concrete an interpretation as this (though it is mentioned in passing in the film), but Arrietty may be seen as a work about endangered species that struggle to survive in an ever-changing world due to the interventionist actions of humans.
Peaceful co-existence between humans and the natural world—or in this case, Arrietty’s secret world—is nearly impossible, such is the arrogance of human beings. But Arrietty’s friendship with the genteel human boy with a heart problem gives us hope.