The Secret World of Arrietty
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Voices of: Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Bridgit Mendler
For nearly 30 years, the Japanese animation factory Studio Ghibli has been making remarkable children's fantasies, giving Disney and Pixar a run for their money in the realm of beguiling, imaginative storytelling.
Their latest is no exception. Based on Mary Norton's classic children's novels The Borrowers, The Secret World of Arrietty tells the tale of a tiny-sized family who live under the floorboards of a big, beautiful country house where they survive by appropriating items such as dropped hairpins and sugar cubes, and how the miniature clan's titular, intrepid 14-year-old daughter befriends a sickly human-sized boy who comes to live with his great aunt.
Co-written by Hayao Miyazaki, who has also directed the Ghibli highlight Spirited Away, Arrietty bears all of the studio's hallmarks, from gorgeous, lyrical animation and a contemplative approach to nature to heartfelt characterisation and life lessons imparted with tender care.
With her feisty curiosity and stubborn streak, Arrietty is a delightful heroine for teenage girls, although, as with all of Ghibli's best work, this is a film everyone can enjoy and cherish.
From looming, treacle-like raindrops to the roaring rustle of leaves and grass, Arrietty's world is shaped in dreamy, dazzling detail, but the film is also a bittersweet portrait of a vanishing way of life, where malevolent house cats and the constant risk of discovery conspire to threaten the tiny race's existence.
Children attuned to the unrelenting thrills of Hollywood animation might find their patience tested by the story's gentle pace, but Arrietty is one of the most enchanting animated films you'll see all year.