aka “Karigurasho no Arietty”, “Arietty the Borrower”
Genre: Fantasy drama
Score: Excellent (especially for children)
Sho is visiting his aunt in the country to rest in the weeks leading up to his operation. Shortly after arriving he happens to see tiny people called Borrowers, who secretly live under the floorboards and make a living by emerging during the night to take little bits that humans won’t miss. He tries to make contact with the Borrower girl he sees, but Arietty and her family are rightly nervous of letting the big people see them.
This film is loosely based on the Borrowers novels by Mary Norten, shifting the setting to present day Japan. Ghibli do the premise justice in a way that probably no other studio could, because of their incredible attention to detail. They successfully depict the way the world looks from a scale four inches high, from the shape of water tension to their impromptu tools, such as grappling hooks made of earrings. The animation is totally Ghibli, with a soft human style that never looks automated. I saw the subtitled version, but I’ve no doubt that children could follow the story even without understanding the words – and children in the cinema were utterly silent throughout.
But the real genius of Ghibli is to never shy away from the harsh reality of the story. The life that the Borrowers lead is dangerous – the slightest slip up could cost them their lives, as it has other Borrowers they knew in the past. They wonder if they might be the only ones of their kind left in the world. There’s no simple answer to their situation, so there’s no easy happy ending. This isn’t a dumbed down kids’ film, and the gentle pacing and subtle touches mean anybody can enjoy it without feeling patronised. Once again, Ghibli have shown what a children’s film is supposed to be.