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REVIEW – Arrietty (2010)

July 25, 2011

FilmJuice have my review of Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s Arrietty. A Studio Ghibli adaptatation of Mary Norton’s Borrowers books.

As one might expect of a film directed by one of Ghibli’s finest animators, Arrietty is visually very impressive indeed. The characters are well-designed, the sets are elegant and the re-use of mundane items — de rigueur in all wainscot fantasies — is both imaginatively conceived and brilliantly executed.  However, beyond such shallow set-dressing, Yonebayashi displays a skill for visual storytelling that shows an astonishing amount of promise:

However, while the film repeatedly shows us how alien a world can be when it is not built with you in mind, it also whispers of conciliation and companionship and of what beauties might be achieved if only humans and borrowers could learn to live together. This yearning is symbolised by a dollhouse built by Sho’s family as a place for borrowers to live. A place of glittering chandeliers and tiny silver kettles, the dollhouse is nothing short of a holy land for a group of small people that are very afraid and very alone in a world full of humans.

Unfortunately, while Yonebayashi’s direction is flawless, many of his visual motifs work against Miyazaki’s characteristically slap-dash plot.  Indeed, while Yonebayashi is hinting at what might be if humans and borrowers could live together, the film ends with the borrowers leaving the world of humans completely.  The disconnect between the story told by the film’s visuals and the story told by the film’s script gives the impression that Arrietty is filled with unresolved plot lines resulting in a film that feels more like the opening of a trilogy than a self-contained world.

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