Studio Ghibli shrinks to Studio Gimli in this 2010 Borrowers adaptation.
Ghibli is all about detail, making Mary Norton’s diminutive classic the perfect playground for the anime giant’s miniaturised magic. Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s (When Marnie Was There, Mary and the Witch’s Flower) version follows a family of Borrowers coming face-to-face with their human co-habitants, focusing on the relationship between the tiny titular heroine (Mirai Shida) and the lonely lad who spots her (Ryunosuke Kamiki).
Co-writer Hayao Miyazaki’s fondness for Western literature meets the fluid Japanese style in the middle, creating a unified, dignified adventure that makes Ant-Man look anaemic. Incidentally the British dub marks the cinematic debut of Tom Holland, while the US version has then-real-life couple Will Arnett and Amy Poehler as Arrietty’s parents.
Yonebayashi drops us into this crumb-sized world as though placing a figure in a doll’s house, blowing up the texture of wallpaper and echoing the ticking of clocks in such fine detail that you sometimes forget the characters are meant to be small until a giant hand appears and starts messing with the furniture. This sense of scale and motion is beautifully rendered, every environment some leafy, lilliputian habitat.
Plus two more Ghibli staples: a delightfully tubby cat and a message of respecting nature and protecting the endangered or vulnerable; of cohabitation and sharing spaces, whether it’s a house or a planet. The only minor misstep is the human boy who sometimes seems unnecessarily smug about the Borrowers’ imminent extinction. But that’s a small complaint for such a big-hearted film, as pretty and gentle as a ladybird landing on a leaf.