The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9.4/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY (2010) - Hiromasa Yonebayashi

We all live our everyday lives as objects and events transpire around us. But underneath our daily experiences, events can occur in such minuscule proportions that we are unaware of their existence. This is where the Borrowers live their everyday lives, under our houses, under our noses.

A Borrower is a little creature resembling the appearance of a human, whose job is to sneak into houses every once in a while to "borrow" items that we humans are unlikely to notice to be missing. These items include sugar cubes and tissue. Conceptually, Borrowers take only what they need to survive, and never what they want. Of course, these "borrowing" missions must be carried out without our awareness, or else their very existence is spilled into our world, where curiosity drives us indefinitely.

The Secret World of Arrietty is based on the 1952 novel The Borrowers written by Mary Norton. The film tells the story of Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler), a young Borrower, who lives under the floorboards of a typical household. She eventually befriends Shawn (David Henrie), a human boy with a heart condition since birth, who is living with his great aunt, Jessica. When Jessica's maid, Hara, becomes suspicious of the floorboard's disturbance, Arrietty and her family must escape detection, even if it means leaving their beloved home behind.

Like every Studio Ghibli film, The Secret World of Arrietty provides us with a great cast of characters. There is always the determined figure with a great soul. There is always the comic relief character who is there for humorous innocence. As usual, the film's ability to engage its audience within ten minutes is a power greatly managed by direction and writing, this time by Hayao Miyazaki himself. Nevertheless, if the characters are deeply analyzed, there is a plethora of elements similar to other Studio Ghibli characters. Arrietty bears a resemblance to Sophie in Howl's Moving Castle, with a similar personality to the elder sister Satsuki in My Neighbor Totoro. Hara stands as a combination of old Sophie and the Witch of the Wastes in Howl's Moving Castle. As for Shawn, he himself even looks like Howl. Nevertheless, the film's characterization and storytelling are both old fashion at their best. It may be old school, but like in The Incredibles, there is "no school like the old school."

The film's narrative is eloquently paced, despite the actual plot being familiar. Simply put, The Secret World of Arrietty is the Studio Ghibli version of Tangled: old-fashioned animation that can still transport the audience into a magical reality. The animated visuals are dreamy. Like all other Studio Ghibli films, Arrietty combines hand-drawn moving objects with beautifully painted backgrounds. However, this time around, Yonebayashi added a cinematic flavor to its content. This time around, the artwork bears a sense of depth. For example, in a panning shot, the foreground plants move faster than the background house. Along with several shots that switch focus on its subjects, The Secret World of Arrietty adds a touch of filmmaking to its power, similar to Spielberg's Adventures of Tintin and Verbinski's Rango. The attention to detail is visually fascinating, with lush colors and lovely landscapes. On a visual standard, the film is a great improvement in the field of Studio Ghibli's animation.

Although it offers a lavish treat to the eyes, its narrative is a little slow-paced, exploring a world that is inevitably still similar and familiar to our own. The plot, in a literal way, is not adventurous nor exciting, but possibly more as predictable. However, if all these are looked ahead of, Arrietty can still be a delightful luxury for the younger and less demanding folks.

In conclusion, The Secret World of Arrietty is a satisfying continuation of the Studio Ghibli franchise. It delivers the sense that underneath the ordinary, lies something extraordinary. From TIME Magazine: "Unlike most Ghibli escapes that liberate us from reality, Arrietty brings the same magic to the mundane, elevating the ordinary confines of daily life into sumptuous surprises." Similar to Spirited AwayThe Secret World of Arrietty manages to transport us into the world of the Borrowers and, at the same time, makes us observe our own world in a whole new perspective.

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