11. A children’s film: The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)
List Progress: 12/12
Finishing out the resolution list and the year with a peaceful, sedate movie about connecting across differences and divides. The Secret World of Arrietty (or Arrietty the Borrower, depending on location), is a Studio Ghibli anime and adaptation of the 1950’s book series The Borrowers by Mary Norton. The film follows a tiny, mouse-sized teenage girl named Arrietty, who lives with her parents in the walls of a human country house. They are Borrowers, a race of miniscule people who “borrow” what they need from humans to survive and build tiny homes with stolen house supplies.
Half the fun of Secret World (or any of the live-action adaptations of The Borrowers) is seeing tiny people interact with things wildly beyond their scale. A clothespin serves as a huge hair piece for Arrietty, her father uses a screw as a crutch when he injures his leg, a single bay leaf is enough to supply the mother’s kitchen for a year. It was honestly a little disappointing that their clothes and housewares were largely sized for them, even before a human boy gifts them a doll-house kitchen. The plot of the film is quite limited, so the charm of the setting and the lush backgrounds is doing a lot of the heavy lifting.
Teenage Arrietty is learning to go borrowing for the first time, when she encounters the “human bean” Sho, a boy who is convalescing in his great-aunt’s home before undergoing heart surgery. He is fatalistic and resigned to his eventual fate, but the magic of seeing little people in the garden helps to reignite a spark in him. But the more involved he tries to become with Arrietty, the more convinced her parents are that they need to leave and find a new home. A direct threat is provided by the family’s housekeeper Haru, who is determined to hunt down and trap the Borrowers for their crimes of…stealing individual sugar cubes and tissues? Haru is by far the weakest part of the film, a woman who is completely numb to the wonder of seeing tiny sentient creatures and only wants them exterminated. She exists in a much broader story than the gentle tale between Arrietty and Sho, even down to her more crudely-drawn animation.
The Secret World of Arrietty is not afraid to be a quiet movie, which is a bold thing in children’s media. It might not be anyone’s absolute favorite film, especially among Studio Ghibli’s other offerings, but it is lovely and peaceful and a good way to spend 90 minutes before facing whatever 2022 has in store.
Would I Recommend It: Yes.