With The Secret World of Arrietty, Hayao Miyazaki brings back his brilliance, magic, and charm to the delight of both adults and children.
Much like a lot of his previous works, Miyazaki; (the man behind Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle) is able to bring you into a world so completely different than our own. The Secret World of Arrietty, you get sucked into a world inspired by Mary Norton’s novel The Borrowers. In this adaptation, we follow a young borrower Arrietty, who is both adventurous and curious; these are two traits that often resonate within Miyazaki’s characters. When Arrietty goes out on her first “borrowing”, she is discovered by a sickly boy named Shawn, who is just as curious about the little people as Arrietty is about the “beans” (human beings). From that meeting their entire world spirals out of control as Arrietty and her family desperately seek out a new home away from those who are now ever so intrigued with the borrowers.
With a lot of Miyazaki’s films, there is a certain precedent about the way things go. More than likely you will find yourself watching the story though the eyes of a young girl and a young boy, there will be a world that is not only large in scope but big in a metaphorical meaning.
It is this scope that is one of the biggest selling points of Arrietty’s world. When simple things like the movement of a hand or even the shuffling of feet causes a reverberating echo to the borrowers, it’s no wonder that the feeling of being so small is throughout the duration of the film. Another engrossing feature about the film is the aesthetic style design of The Secret World of Arrietty. Water and butter look like the greatest things to ever put in one’s body, and tea kettles can be the size of cruise ships; the film makes the viewer feel just as small, if not smaller than the borrowers themselves.
Miyazaki also seems to always pair his films with incredible music. The tone that’s presented gives the feeling of older Ireland folk music, which is full of wonder, magic and mystery. Cécile Corbel provides a more than stellar soundtrack, giving the film it’s main opening theme. Not only is this a feat in itself to score an entire film, but the fact that it coincides so well with the world is truly breathtaking. As the viewer follows Arrietty through the nooks and crannies of an old house at midnight, the calm soft music gives a feeling of security with a dash of anticipation. The score helps bring the whole of Miyazaki’s vision to unbelievable heights.
While the film is a joy to watch, and truly does give one the sense of Miyazaki’s work, it isn’t a perfect piece of cinema. There are a few sections of the film that just don’t seem to fit well with the rest; an introduction of a side character, who has maybe a combined total of five minutes screen time, a plot device that literally goes one place then right back to where it originated from, and the creation of false adversaries truly distract the viewer from the film. However, this is still Miyazaki, and in simple terms it is still magical.
If you are looking for this film to be like Princess Mononoke or Castle in the Sky, I am sorry to let you know it doesn’t fall into that niche, but is instead akin to My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service. While not absolutely flawless, The Secret World of Arrietty is a visual masterpiece that will take you on a ride through a world so magical, you would never have imagined that it existed. I strongly recommend you see this film as soon as it hits theaters, so you too may enjoy this world and all that inhabit it.
The Secret World of Arrietty releases in the US to a wide audience on February 17th, 2012.
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