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Arrietty - DVD Review

Arrietty

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

WHILE everyone eulogises [deservedly] about the genius of Pixar, it’s sometimes easy to overlook another masterful animation company: Studio Ghibli.

From Castle In The Sky to Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, the company founded by Hayao Miyazaki has been enchanting viewers across the globe with its beautifully constructed movies.

Its latest, Arrietty, is another lovely addition to that glittering CV. Adapted from English author Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, the film is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and overseen by Miyazaki (who co-penned the screenplay).

It’s a largely faithful adaptation imbued with Japanese sensibilities but it retains a child-like wonder and an easy global appeal whether you see it in English dubbed form (when Saoirse Ronan and Mark Strong provide the voices) or in its original Japanese version.

The story has been transported to Tokyo and focuses on 14-year-old Arrietty, who lives with her parents Pod and Homily beneath the floorboards of a house. A borrower, Arrietty is also a tiny person who must keep her existence secret from the humans who occupy the upper floors.

Every once in a while, however, she accompanies her father on a scavenging mission to retrieve the unwanted scraps left behind by the humans.

After one such hunt, however, her life is thrown into disarray following the arrival of a sick 12-year-old boy who catches a glimpse of Arrietty and wants to strike up a friendship. Their ensuing relationship offers a life-changing experience for both…

As ever, Studio Ghibli’s attention to detail is faultless, with the lush visuals providing an arresting backdrop for the complex emotions at play. It is quite simply beautiful to look at, yet heart-warming and poignant at the same time.
And, as with Pixar’s finest, this is a film that plays to adults and children alike.

Director Yonebayashi, now the youngest filmmaker on the Ghibli books, steps up to the challenges presented before him well, imbuing the film with a playful sense of adventure (highlighted during the borrowers’ daring scavenges) as well as sharply defined characters.

The various relationships between the characters are vividly realised so that the bittersweet conclusion is both touching and genuinely heartfelt, just as Norton would have envisaged.

Arrietty is therefore a highly recommended experience for viewers of every age, which quite possibly rates as the finest animated movie of the year so far.

Certificate: U
Running time: 94mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: January 9, 2012