Saturday, 30 July 2011


With the wonders that computers have done to the field of animation, it's easy to forget that traditional animated films are still made. And nobody does it better than Studio Ghibli.

Based on the classic The Borrowers, Ghibli's version is as far removed from the last movie adaptation - 1997's action-adventure starring John Goodman - as you can get with the same source material.

Without large set-pieces, or frantic dashes to rescue loved ones from certain peril, Arrietty still takes a hold of you, and frame by frame, draws you head and heart into it's world of Borrowers and Human Beans.

For those who are not new to the world of Ghibli, subtle reminders of previous works will nudge you whilst watching it - the large-eyed nurse here looks like a character from Spirited Away - while first-timers will just drink in the wonders on display. As with all previous adaptations, the clever use of everyday objects by the Borrowers is there to be discovered by the audience - a safety pin on the wall used to hold kitchen utensils; double-sided tape on hands and feet to help scale such obstacles as table legs; nails and tacks in walls to create stairways; stamps as framed posters to decorate rooms - the cleverness is a sight to behold.

However, this cleverness is not its defining factor. As always it's the characterisation and their interactions that engages, putting it on the highly recommended list to watch. Here, Arrietty's confidence and curiosity that sparks the movies plot when she is seen by the new arrival of the sick boy, Sho, is the driving force of the beautifully realised, but ultimately doomed relationship between the two of them. Borrowers must not be seen by Human Beans and their initial awe and wonder at each other can never go any further but their meeting will always stay with them. If you don't feel moved or want to shed a tear at their goodbye scene (this year's best visual scene so far with Arrietty on a bamboo fence with Sho looking down at her) then book your heart transplant now my friend.

With two versions playing - the original Japanese language version with subtitles and the Disney-backed Hollywood dubbed version with the likes of Mark Strong and Saoirse Ronan - there is no excuse for you to not introduce any child, or yourself for that matter, to one of this years most delightfully beautiful cinematic experiences.

Here's hoping this will finally open up more Western eyes to the world of Studio Ghibli.

UK release date: 29.07.11
Certificate: U

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