Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Starring: Saorise Ronan & Mark Strong
Runtime: 94 mins
Arrietty doesn’t represent the first time that the much loved Studio Ghibli has dabbled in the art of adaptation. Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo both finding their original source material in the work of established children’s authors. Arrietty takes Mary Norton’s The Borrowers and transposes its plot onto suburban Tokyo.
Living in a tiny makeshift home underneath a large human house in Japan, Arrietty and her two parents, must forage from the house above them in order to survive. Arrietty charts the burgeoning relationship between its eponymous miniature sized hero, and the sickly young boy living in the human house above; a relationship which becomes problematic when the human beings begin to threaten the borrowers’ very existence.
In true Studio Ghibli style ecological issues regarding the co-existence of species’, and the protection of the natural world are brought to the forefront. In the vein of Ghibli’s last endeavour, Ponyo, the human and the animal world are united, but only once the threat posed by the human world upon the animal has been sufficiently illuminated.
The quality of animation here is, as ever, superb, the garden setting of the film really allowing the artists to show off. A vibrant and engrossing world of colour has been created, which is a veritable treat for the eye. Yet despite this Arrietty seems lacking in the magic which we have come to expect from Studio Ghibli.
The insatiable charm and youthful innocence which has sealed the success of the company’s other productions never really takes a foothold here, making it a feature which can feel somewhat sterile in places. Unfortnately the contrived English voice acting, and over-zealous folky soundtrack only serve to exacerbate this sterility, against all intentions.
What we are left with is a movie which often feels as if it ticks boxes without really transcending them. It may not live up to other Studio Ghibli favourites such as Spirited Away or My Neighbour Totoro, but there is no denying that this is a tight, solid debut feature from Yonebayashi.