Mary Norton’s novel The Borrowers was released in 1952. In the following 60 years, it has taken on a life of its own. Most people have heard of the story in one way or another, whether from a TV interpretation or one of the many movie adaptations.
In 2010, one of the most prolific film studios in the world, Studio Ghibli, decided to take on The Borrowers and ended up creating what will come to be known as a timeless piece of cinema. Ghiblihas a reputation all its own the world over, since they have been responsible for the release of films like Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.
The studio’s most recent title, The Secret World of Arrietty, was first released in 2010 in Japan and 2011 in Europe. In the United States, the movie is being distributed by Walt Disney Pictures and was officially released on Feb.17. The star-studded dubbing for this version is done very well, and the translations work, which is something that can’t always be said about the way foreign films are treated in this market.
The film follows a young borrower, Arrietty, and her family. They live under the floor in a house in Japan and have been there for quite some time. However, as time has passed, they’ve come to worry that they may be some of the very last of their kind. Then, when a young, ill boy moves into the house, things start to get complicated. Arrietty befriends the boy (Shawn, in the U.S. version), but this friendship comes at a cost, since borrowers aren’t allowed to fraternize with the “beings” because of how dangerous it is. After being discovered, her family is forced to move to a new home in order to stay safe.
The movie combines beautiful and flawless animation with a wonderfully deep screenplay and touching score. Although marketed to children in the United States, the movie bears Studio Ghibli’ssignature method of tackling different, more adult themes and containing much more complex meanings beneath the surface.
An example of one of these deep moments happens about halfway through the film. Arrietty and Shawn have a discussion about her family’s situation, and Shawn, in all of his maturity and bitterness, muses on death and change in life and how no matter what one wants, things will change and people will die. This moment is one that makes parents cringe,but is absolutely necessary to the intricacy and complexity of the film. Ghibli isn’t one to shy away from tough subject matter, and this rightfully gives its movies appeal across all age ranges.
There aren’t any real negatives or detractors to name within the film. Its message is absolutely relevant to the times in which we live, and it is one that is touching and lasting. Regardless of the age of the audience, it is a film that is thoroughly enjoyable and worth seeing on the big screen.