Film review: Arrietty

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Still from the film 'Arrietty'

Film: Arrietty
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Running time: 95 minutes
Year of telease: 2011
Language: Japanese with English subtitles

The fascination for discovering little people is something that adults and children can relate to. We’ve all been small once and who hasn’t imagined finding a tiny community hiding and living in their garden? Our imaginings of little people are further elaborated upon when we read stories like Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726), the 1920s fairy scandal when Frances Griffith and Elsie Wright posed with mystical fairies in numerous photographs that were viewed as authentic until the 1970s, or watching the 1970s American sci-fi television series Land of the Giants.

Arrietty is another such imaginal journey into the world of little people and has been adapted via animation for the screen from Mary Norton’s book The Borrowers (1952). The narrative encompasses intricate detail throughout, using hand drawn 2D animation which is juxtaposed with an elegant sound score, producing a sensitive and visually stimulating experience. Essentially, Arrietty is a about the power of little people and more specifically Arrietty Clock. She is a fourteen year-old girl who wants to prove to her father that she can borrow successfully from the “human beans” who reside in an enormous mansion above.

The Clock family are tiny people who live hidden, borrowing simple items to make their home enjoyable and comfortable. However, life changes for the family when Arrietty is discovered by a young boy named Sho. Sho has come to stay in the house above while he waits for an operation to fix his sick heart. Eventually, Arrietty and Sho must come to terms with their impossible friendship. Alone they are powerless but together they become powerful. When Sho says to Arrietty, “you gave me the courage to live” she is about to leave her home with her family and to start something new. Change is often difficult and especially when it is something you’re not use to.

Don’t let the English subtitles deter you from bringing young ones to see Arrietty. My six year-old son just loved it and he’s now searching for little people everywhere.