Arrietty

(G) Saoirse Ronan, Tom Hollander

Many argue that Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli (the people behind Oscar-winning Spirited Away, 2001) understand animation better than any other studio currently working. Favouring traditional hand-drawn 2D animation over the myriad of 3D animated movies, they continue to boldly express their true love of animation as an art form.

Arrietty is their latest offering — an animated delight based on Mary Norton’s classic novel The Borrowers. Arrietty (voiced by the supremely sweet Saoirse Ronan) is the 14-year-old, fearless daughter of the Clock family. The Clocks are little people (“borrowers”) who are four inches tall and live undetected beneath the kitchen floor of an old home. They survive by borrowing things the humans won’t miss. Their simple, contented life is interrupted however when a seriously ill human boy named Sho (Tom Hollander) comes to stay and spots Arrietty. The two strike up a forbidden friendship, endangering the borrowers, who fear they may be the last of their kind.

Studio Ghibli’s visionary mastermind Hayao Miyazaki originally suggested adapting The Borrowers because he found the idea of “borrowing” intriguing: “It fits in perfectly with the way things are today. The era of mass consumption is coming to a close. We are in a bad economy and the idea of borrowing instead of buying shows very well the direction [that] things are headed.”

Set in a modern-day, leafy Japanese neighbourhood, the illustrations of the garden, house and life of the Clock family are breathtaking. The simplicity of every day life becomes marvelous when viewed from the perspective of the little people. Arrietty and her parents are clever and resourceful, creating marvelous mechanisms that are a wonder to behold. There is great beauty in the simplicity of their lifestyle and they all embody fine qualities such as bravery, determination and a fierce love for one another.

Arrietty is director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s debut. The veteran animator has worked on Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) and Ponyo (2008) and is considered the studio’s best.

Yonebayashi’s gentle hand ensures that Arrietty manages to retain the enchantment and innocence of its beloved source material despite being modern and relevant. It is a moving, masterfully crafted, and often-funny gem of a film, and it is Miyazaki’s wish that Arrietty “will offer comfort and courage to the people living in these chaotic, unsure times”.

Jasmine Edwards and Samuel Edwards

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