Film review | Arrietty – The Borrowers inspires enchanting animated tale from Japan’s Studio Ghibli


The latest flight of fantasy from Japanese animation masters Studio Ghibli, Arrietty is an enchanting tale inspired by Mary Norton’s classic 1950s Borrowers novels about a family of miniature people who live under the floorboards and survive by ‘borrowing’ what they need from the humans above.

The story now unfolds in the suburbs of modern-day Tokyo, where tiny 14-year-old Arrietty puts her family’s existence at risk after she forms a friendship with the sickly 12-year-old boy who has moved into the mansion overhead.

Scripted by the great Hayao Miyazaki (maker of the Oscar-winning Spirited Away), Arrietty marks the directorial debut of Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the animator responsible for the wonderful scene in Miyazaki’s 20008 film Ponyo in which the heroine dashes through a storm on the crest’s of the ocean’s waves. The action here is much less frenetic, but when Arrietty (voiced in the UK English-language version by Saoirse Ronan) and her father (Mark Strong) embark on their borrowing expeditions, the adventure has all the thrills and spills of an assault on Everest.

As you’d expect given Studio Ghibli’s track record, the film looks gorgeous. The natural world as experienced by Arrietty shimmers with wonder and her minuscule domestic world is lovingly rendered. After the sometimes brash in-your-face dazzle of CGI, it’s a delight to experience again the delicate, painterly charms of old-fashioned hand-drawn animation.

On general release from 29th July.


To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.

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