Viewed – 13 January 2012  Blu-ray

I have to admit, I am a great admirer of the movies from acclaimed Japanese animation masters Studio Ghibli, with Spirited Away and Ponyo being two of my favourites.  This latest entry tells the tale of a tiny girl, who along with her mother and father, live under the floor boards of a huge house, unbeknownst to the humans occupying it.  At night they creep out to scavenge for supplies in order to survive … but it’s not stealing, they are Borrowers, as in the classic children’s books by Mary Norton.  Stepping into the shoes of recently retired studio head Hayao Miyzaki is Hiromasa Yonebayashi in his directing debut, and let’s just say, the studio is in good hands.

From the start, this is magical stuff.  The way the world of Arrietty and her family is captured, from their perspective is stunning, with as expected from Ghibli, wonderfully detailed animation and gorgeous art, making you feel like you are right there with them in a huge world.  The sound design is also exceptional and greatly adds to the atmosphere.  Arrietty’s story, that of a little girl who befriends a human boy suffering from a heart disease, is touching and well observed.  The voice casting is generally good, especially from The Lovely Bones’ Saoirse Ronan in the lead, although the boy proves less interesting, with a very bland, wooden performance … which does lessen the movie’s emotional impact.  The story also lacks the sort of peril you might expect, and it’s not all that exciting either.  Even when the house keeper makes an alarming discovery, and a rescue is set into motion – you never feel anyone is in particular danger.

Don’t get me wrong however, this is a movie that despite such gripes, is still filled with wonderful imagination and bags of personality, as well as beautiful animation and a very memorable theme tune.  I found the ending to be a bit of a let down, but overall … this still enchanted the hell out of me.

Verdict:  3.5 /5