ARIETTY (KARI-GURASHI NO ARIETTI)
Japan, 2010, 94 minutes, Colour.
English version: Voices of Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong, Tom Holland, Olivia Colman, Geraldine Mc Ewan, Phyllida Law.
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi.
‘Charming’ is probably the most apt word to describe this Japanese animation film. It is probably the most useful as well. It is not a film for those who find charming uninteresting or distasteful.
Arietty is one of the little people, one of The Borrowers (from the novel by Mary Norton), a member of the Clock Family who live in the corners and spaces in an old house. They seem to be the lone survivors, not knowing any more Borrowers, and with a strict code not to be seen by humans. (There was a live action version of The Borrowers in the 1990s with John Goodman.)
When Arietty is out one day, Sho, a little boy who is resting at his grandmother’s before an operation, glimpses her. This creates confusion for the Borrowers, some upheaval in the house, especially from the ill-tempered maid who wants to call in exterminators.
While the idea might seem more than a little fey or twee, the charm carries it along. Arietty is no wallflower. She is very active, admired by her father, worried about by her mother – who is captured in a bottle by the maid and imprisoned in a cupboard which requires Arietty to use her brains and her skill to rescue her. In the meantime, the friendship between Arietty and Sho develops quite sweetly after initial suspicions.
This is Japanese animation. In the last decade, these animators have produced beautifully drawn films (rather than rely on computergraphics) including Oscar-winner, Spirited Away. Interestingly, they have taken on a number of British stories, Steam Boy, How’s Moving Castle. The director is Hiromasa Yonebayashi in his first film in this capacity. He worked as an animator on Spirited Away and Howl and was assistant to their director, Hayao Miyazaki, for Ponyo. His work is certainly in that tradition.
With all respect to American dubbing and the casts (Amy Poehler, Will Arnett and Carol Burnett), the version under review is the British dubbed version with such excellent actors like Saiorse Ronan as Arietty, Tom Holland as Sho, Mark Strong as her father, with Olivia Colman, Geraldine Mc Ewan and Phyllida Law.
As said before, charming.
1. The quality of Japanese animation? The animation for children’s audiences? Family friendly? The tales told, the characters, the beauty and charm of the films?
2. The story of the Borrowers, a British story, the adaptation for Japanese audiences?
3. The style of the drawings, their charm, the landscapes, characters, the action sequences? The score?
4. The quality of the British voices for the credibility of the story?
5. The simplicity of the story, the Borrowers and their life, their philosophy, borrowing from the humans, not being discovered, not to be seen by the humans? Their friendship, the encounter with the humans? Sho and Arietty? The sadness of the family having to leave at the end?
6. Arietty as the daughter Borrower, her relationship with her parents, her life, her bond with her father, the mother practical at home, the borrowing expedition, climbing, falling, her father helping her? Playing outside, her being seen by Sho? Meeting Sho, talking, learning about him, their activities together, the growing friendship, the help?
7. Sho, his age, with his grandmother, coming to the house, his settling in, his illness, the prospect of the operation? His seeing Arietty? Discovering her? Talking with her, the effect on him, the friendship? The maid and her antipathy? Helping the family to leave?
8. The maid, cranky, capturing the mother, putting her in the cupboard? Calling in the exterminators?
9. The grandmother, her concern for Sho, bringing him to the house, the operation, the delicacy of the situation?
10. Arietty, growing up, the expedition and its effect, the sugar, her father?
11. Her mother being captured, her mother and her screaming and fears? Arietty, the preparation for the rescue, the detail of the rescue, her achievement?
12. The family being the only Borrowers, the time to leave, the expedition away, their guide coming, farewell to Sho?
13. The future of the Borrowers and their survival, the effect on Sho and his experience with the Borrowers?