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Kari-Gurashi no Arrietti/Arrietty

9/10

Stars: English language dub: Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland, Mark Strong, Olivia Colman, Phyllida Law

Original Japanese voices: Mirai Shida, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Shinobu Ohtake, Tomokazu Miura, Kirin Kiki, Keiko Takeshita, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Shin'ichi Hatori

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Having achieved enviable auteur status Japan’s Studio Ghibli, creators of such well-received animated films as Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo, join forces with, among others, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, to make this attractive and engaging version of Mary Norton’s classic novel The Borrowers (filmed under that name in live action in 1997 with John Goodman, Jim Broadbent and Celia Imrie).

Here, the setting is a rambling mansion in Japan where diminutive 14-year-old Arrietty and her parents live behind the walls and exist by ‘borrowing’ things they need from the human owners. Until, that is, Arrietty makes friends with the sick young boy who comes to live in the mansion to wait for the vital operation he needs…

Charm, happily not tainted by Disney-esqe sentimentality, is the overriding element in director Yonebayashi’s handling of the story, spiced with surprisingly stark sequences of the little family’s ultimate fate. The animation is beautiful, especially the backgrounds against which the action is staged. Invading crows are suitably scary in context while the fractious cat first seen with Arietty is a memorable moggie.

A cartoon feature that works for both children and adults is always to be welcomed and Arrietty, with either the original Japanese dialogue or the well-dubbed English language version, fits the bill perfectly.

Alan Frank

Japan 2011. UK Distributor: Optimum. Colour.
94 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 31 Jul 2011