The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)
★★ / ★★★★
Shawn (voiced by David Henrie) was sent to live with his aunt in the province because he needed to rest prior to an impending heart surgery. Walking up to the backyard, he noticed something strange: a rustling in the bushes and then suddenly a little person named Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler), a “borrower” about the size of our thumbs, dashing across the green jungle in hopes of being elusive enough as to not to be seen. If recognized by humans, to the borrowers known as “beings,” they were to pack up and move immediately in order not to risk their safety. Based on the screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, for all the fantastic discoveries made by the characters in “Kari-gurashi no Arietti,” it was surprising that its entertainment value was only middling. Perhaps it had something to do with its purposefully unhurried pace. In some instances, it worked. When, for instance, Arrietty stopped running around the garden to admire the vast surroundings that we humans take for granted, the material placed me in her mindset. For a lot of us, although there are plenty of things to see in the world, either we choose not to open our eyes to the natural marvels in front of us or we lack the means, financially, for example, to venture outside of our regular spaces and explore. During its slower moments, it was nice that we had a choice between boredom and introspection. In some scenes, its sluggish pacing did not work. A lot of time was dedicated to Hara (Carol Burnett), the household’s helper, suspecting and snooping around the house for the borrowers. The script seemed intent in making her a villain but her intentions weren’t always so clear. Why was she so desperate to catch a borrower? If she captured one, what would she do with it? Did she want fame or money? She had stated that over the years, things around the house had gone missing. Was she blamed for these missing items and therefore wanted to prove her innocence? These questions were not answered because the screenplay seemed stuck in pushing us to dislike her. Even though her hunt had gotten so desperate that she eventually hired pest control to lure out Arrietty and her family, I didn’t see her as a terrible human being. In fact, I was able to relate to her curiosity. If I stumbled upon evidence that there really were borrowers living in my house, I would want to see one for myself even if it meant looking at the back of storage closets and underneath floorboards. What I enjoyed was the film’s keen attention to detail. Although the vibrant colors jumped out in an attempt to snag our attention, I liked looking at the molds and stains on the walls as Arrietty and her father (Will Arnett) made their way to the kitchen to get some sugar and tissue paper. It made me feel like I was their size and I was alert of the little dangers–and not-so-little bugs–that could be waiting around the corner. Even though the scene mostly consisted of walking, it felt like a big adventure because there was a level of danger that threatened the characters and a certain aura of discovery considering that it was our protagonist’s first time venturing into the kitchen. Based on the novel “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton, I sensed that “The Secret World of Arrietty,” directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, held itself back. It wasn’t a rich experience, just an adequate one.