Growing up, I always believed that the best movies are the ones coming from Walt Disney (and later Pixar) with their age proof and heart warming animated features about fairy tales and great adventures that highlights the greatness of friendship and the triumph of good against evil. They have great movies for the family, that’s one of the fact that remains today. But Disney is not alone. Because somewhere in the eastern hemisphere lies a great kingdom called Studio Ghibli who have also fascinated countless young minds of the great tales of fantasies, magic, bravery and the beauty of life through coming of age stories. My only regret is I never got to know the studio and the legendary storyteller Hayao Miyazaki sooner. But their lineup of great animated films are as impressive as those of Disney’s and Pixar’s. And their latest masterpiece is the heartwarming tale of a brave little girl in ‘The Secret World of Arrietty.’
The Secret World of Arrietty was written and produced by Hayao Miyazaki, the mind who brought us Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. Based on Mary Norton’s 1952 novel The Borrowers, the film tells the story of a free-spirited young borrower named Arrietty who lives with her parents under the floorboards of a rural suburban house. Borrowers are tiny people who lives peacefully in people’s houses who borrows basic supplies like sugar, tissues and cookies while keeping their existence secret to humans. But when her maiden borrowing into the big world of the human’s kitchen went terribly wrong, their survival and their way of life now hangs in the balance.
But in the face of disappointment and unprecedented danger Arrietty and the boy name Shu, who jut came to the house for a vacation and rest for an upcoming heart surgery, forged a mutual respect to each other’s existence that soon blossoms into an unlikely friendship between the minute borrower and the gigantic human boy – a forbidden friendship that defy all norms that will change their lives forever.
I never really expected the movie will be great because of Miyazaki didn’t direct it, Spirited Away is still number one, a girl is the main character, the trailer was not so good and this and that, etcetera etcetera. But only a few minutes into the film I completely fell in love with it.That’s when I started to take notice of the beautiful and enchanting soundtracks early on. The music was something that is soothing and nostalgic that suddenly brings back those warm memories of summer. The notes simply hits the right spots of the soul, something truly magical. I never knew I have a weak spot for music. Here’s a soundtrack of the film, the English version of ‘Arrietty’s Song’ played by the French singer Cécile Corbel:
Studio Ghibli has always been for its visual concepts of its films but in ‘Arrietty’ they raised the bar even higher. The signature hand-drawn animation was truly stunning especially the rich colors they used promising a feast to the eyes. The concept designs of the environment is really beautiful. The character interaction is simply impeccable conveying a deep sense of reality. Although earlier works of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have always been visual by blowing things up out of proportions into a grand spectacle of high fantasy like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo By The Sea, this time however the elements of the story are practically locked into reality,well, of course except the tiny borrower family.
But the story remains true to the Ghibli tradition of presenting a heart warming coming of age tale filled with mysteries and dangers in one unforgettable adventure. It is intelligently written, a bit toned down but still very captivating. This a tale of friendship as both Arrietty and Shu have to trust each other to fight for their survival. I think the existence of borrowers and their role to the human inhabitants parallels our social issues of today where giant nations like China exerting their dominance by trying to dispute territories already marked by smaller nations. But at the end of the day it is in mutual respect for each other holds the key to a peaceful living. Even the film has a trace of environmentalism and preservation of living creatures around us.
The Secret World of Arrietty is truly a cinematic achievement that sings the human soul’s determination to survive. It’s now one of my favorite animated films of all time. Simply one of the many gifts only Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki can offer. I truly recommend this film for everyone, especially to little children, to watch with their families.