Oh joyous day! Being an animation nut, I love the Studio Ghibli films.
From masterpieces like Castle in the Sky to films I found decent like Only Yesterday. I found that I’ve never been let down by Studio Ghibli (except for Pom Poko but I don’t like to talk about that). Unfortunately though I’ve never had the chance to see one of these great movies in theatres until now. The Secret of Arrietty was among the films I had to see this year alongside The Pirates and (I know I’ll get a lot of crap for saying this) The Lorax. But how did The Secret live up to these expectations?
As most of you have heard The Secret of Arrietty is based of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers series of books and that leads to the plot having to work fairly harder to distinguish itself from the dozens of Borrowers inspired books, TV shows, and movies and from where I stand it really doesn’t stray far from them but surprisingly it doesn’t come off as derivative. Shaun a boy about to have a heart operation goes to his mother’s old summer home to find some rest and relaxation. It isn’t long before he finds and accidentally puts in danger the small new borrower Arrietty, a courageous girl, who is trying to cope with her new role of being a borrower. If I gave any more of a plot summary and I’d be spoiling the plot so I’ll leave it at that.
Now unlike most of Ghibli’s films, Hayao Miyazaki didn’t direct this movie but wrote Miyazaki did write screenplay and it shows from his themes of environmentalism. Arrietty however is a very small story, based only around the summer home where she and Shaun live. This leaves plenty of opportunities to give character development but the writing clearly stumbles on this point. Some of the characters’ motivations and characteristics go unexplored leaving me somewhat confused at some points in the movie. An example being Shaun, Shaun is supposed to be this rather hopeless kid who is trying to help Arrietty before his operation to find some peace within himself before he apparently dies but the story never gives the chance to flesh out this character trait enough and it goes completely unexplored until Shaun just states that’s what he’s doing. If you need your characters to plainly state what they are doing with ZERO subtext you have problems with your writing.
The characters however aren’t any less likeable or funny due to this writing. Shaun is still my favorite character in the movie by far because I feel his struggle is still quite complex and interesting even though the exploration of this is non-existent and characters like Arrietty’s mother and Arrietty are very fun characters as well. But again some of the most important characters’ character aren’t explored enough to leave a lasting impact. One character actually only has 2 scenes and the result I remember nothing about him including his name and he could have been written out and the story would have been pretty much the same.
But after all that the rest if the movie is great. Ghibli’s artwork and human animation is still as beautiful as always with backgrounds looking very colourful and visually pleasing if only a bit washed out. Also, using mostly subtle facial animations to express emotion making the characters feel slightly more real. The antagonist Hara while a little underdeveloped is very funny. Hara is so funny in fact that when she gets her comeuppance at the end almost every child in the audience was laughing their heads off and when you do that you know you made a great comedic villain. The background music is very soothing and lays the thick atmosphere of calming serenity that I love to hear. Finally the movie has a good sense of humor leaving me giggling at its jokes. The key word for this film is slow it takes its time with the story and characters but slightly fails to utilize all that time gained to flesh out the characters fully but I still prefer this slow style of story telling. There are dozens upon dozens of movies in general that feel if they aren’t filling the entire screen with non-stop action they’ll bore their audiences to death. Children’s movies like Yogi Bear and Marmaduke and shows like Johnny Test are one of the most despicable examples of “non-stop action.” Doing this just bloodily sacrifices any sort of steady pacing to forcibly entertain the audience but The Secret of Arrietty clearly shows that even with a slower paced plot it can still fully entertain adults and kids fully.
Illustrations by Jordan Tucker – Facebook Gallery
Written by: Taylor “Whyboy” Wyatt
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