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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Secret World of Arrietty

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

This beautifully animated adaptation of the multi-award-winning 1952 children’s novel by Mary Norton, “The Borrowers” is one of the gentlest films I have seen in a long time.

Arrrietty and her family are little people. They believe that if human “beans” see them their curiosity will destroy them and therefore they must move every time this happens. Arrietty and her family think they are the only little people left on the earth.
 
Arrietty, her mother Homily, and her father Pod (for all voices please see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1568921/), live under the floorboards of a country house tended to be Hara (voice of Carol Burnett, US version).  Pod is somber and wise and works to make things for his family. He goes on “borrowing” expeditions at night to obtain provisions from the human “beans” who live in the house above them.
 
When Arrietty is almost 14 her mother permits her to go on her first borrowing adventure. Arrietty and Pod are excellent climbers who trek up and down piles of stuff, fabric, and table legs, to borrow what they need. Pod reminds Arrietty that Borrowers don’t hoard things.
 
One day a regular sized boy named Shawn arrives at the country house. His great aunt has brought him there so he can get regain some strength before he has heart surgery in a few weeks.  His parents are divorced and always working and he seems sad. He sees Arrietty and she sees him. But she is not as frightened as her parents. The two young people begin to communicate.
 
Of course things get complicated because there is a legend about the little people; Shawn’s mother and grandfather believed in them. In fact, they built a dollhouse just for them but it seems the little people never knew about it. When Hara realizes that Shawn has discovered the little people, she sets out to capture one.
 
“The Secret World of Arrietty” comes to us from first-time Japanese director Hiromasa Yonebayashi whose previous animation efforts include “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Spirited Away.”  Hayao Miyazaki, who is certainly the most prodigious and significant rival to Disney to ever emerge on the scene, wrote “Arrietty”.
 
This is a movie that lets us see the world from a different perspective, that of ‘the other’, the little people who live in hiding and are always on the move in order to survive. Shawn, who himself needs care, is very careful to treat the Borrowers with respect and is always aware of his size in relation to Arrietty who is just big enough to pick up a sugar cube.
 
The theme of the little people “borrowing” only what they need is very important to Pod but Homily seems to be a collector and she is very anxious about their safety. Only living with what we need is a good message for us during Lent. But is there a larger ethical question here: are they stealing? Do they have a right to “borrow” or to steal in a world that is too big for them?
 
Pod also has something wise to say about violence when Arrietty finds a weapon (a straight pin).
 
I don’t know if “The Secret World of Arrietty” is a good adaptation of the book “The Borrowers” (actually there is a series of them) but I loved the beautiful world of the film, the moral imaginary journey of trying to live and be happy by walking in the shoes, or seeing through the eyes, of people different that me. And I appreciated the girl Arrietty’s gumption and the boy Shawn’s quiet strength in adversity. Finally, here is a film with two complementary heroes, each respectful of the other and courageous in their own way.


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