by Joanna Orland
Most modern cinephiles are familiar with the work of Studio Ghibli. Their credits include Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and of course the beloved Totoro. Their latest work, Arrietty, is based on the book series The Borrowers by author Mary Norton. I’m not personally familiar with the story of The Borrowers, so for me this film is a story in its own right and I will not consider how loosely or closely it was based on the original.
The film is a slow starter. There is not much dialogue and the pace is that of a snail’s. But the characters are endearing, the visuals and audio soothing, and the plot ever-so-sweet. It is most definitely a feel good film, but does not have the same impact as some of the studio’s previous works. The film follows little borrower Arrietty as she accompanies her dad on her first proper borrowing mission and accidentally is seen by Sho, a young boy with heart troubles who has recently arrived at his relatives house to stay and rest before his heart operation. A loving friendship between the tiny Arrietty and the regular-sized boy develops in the sweetest way. It is a very endearing film and the characters are what keeps it thriving.
I watched this film with its English dubbing, but I would highly recommend to seek it out in its native tongue of Japanese with English Subtitles to accompany. The English acting was appalling. It was stunted, awkward and slightly grating. I reckon the Japanese version would have breathed more life into these characters and improved the film greatly from the viewer’s perspective. Most notably awful was Arrietty’s father played by Mark Strong, who was great as the villian in Kick-Ass, but not so great as an anime father figure.
Having just IMDBed the film, apparently there are 2 English versions… one from the US and one from the UK. The UK one was piss poor. The US version looks a LOT more promising with Will Arnett (I’m already sold), Amy Poehler, and Carol Burnett. Damn, wish I’d seen that one.
Overall, I recommend this film for a sweet viewing pleasure. But try to treat yourself to the original Japanese, or potentially the US version which looks to have a lot more promise than the British one.