Let me cut right to the chase with this - The Secret World of Arrietty (2010, ) is a perfect movie. Not just perfect from a Catholic perspective with regards to its message and content, but perfect as a film: perfect animation, perfect music, perfect plot, perfect mood. The movie is beautiful and flawless, a true work of art in the highest sense of the word.
The film is written by Hayao Miyazaki (who also did such anime classics as Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro) and produce by Ghibli Studios, a production company known for producing high quality hand-drawn animation in this age of computerized cartoons. The animation is superb in its detail and life-likeness; throughout the film one is constantly impressed with simply how much care went into it, from the beautiful animation to the characters voices and even the background noises and sound effects. They all blend together to create a rich experience that immerses you into the world of Arrietty the Borrower.
The plot is based on the book The Borrowers by British author Mary Norton and concerns the adventures of a family of Borrowers, a tiny race of people who inhabit the walls and crawlspaces of houses and survive by "borrowing" items from the human beings ("beans") who live above. The story deals with the relationship of Arrietty, the 14 year old daughter in the Borrower family, with Shawn, a seriously ill teenage human boy who is sent to his aunt's country house to rest before a major operation. I won't say too much more about the storyline, but it is both gentle and engaging, and contains several exciting and almost alarming segments that are balanced by many more scenes of tenderness, beauty and tranquility.
The first thing you have to know about this film is that it is infinitely better than the American film The Borrowers (1997) that starred John Goodman. When comparing Arrietty to The Borrowers, I am struck most by the intense dignity that permeates the characters in the Miyazaki version. If we compare the goofy, outlandish father Pod in the American version with the stoic constancy and quiet strength of Miyazaki's Pod, you will see what I mean. The American characters are shallow and there for comic relief; the characters of Miyazaki are there to tell us something valuable about human nature.
The American version wrongly assumes that a movie about little people must neceessarily be comedic; after all, they're tiny people - that's funny, right? Miyazaki takes a diametrically opposing approach, using the backdrop of the tiny people under the floor as a tapestry upon which to tell a tale that forces us to confront some of the perennial questions of human existence: Why love when that which we love will inevitably be lost? Is man bound by inexorable decrees of Fate (as Shawn, the terminally ill human boy expresses when confronting his impending death), or - as the adventurous Arrietty holds -are we free to be bold and choose our own path? Are the boundaries that separate us from each other too great to preclude true love, or can people of differing backgrounds (or in the case of Arrietty and Shawn, different sorts of creatures) cut through their differences and find love, even if the boundaries that separate us can never truly be overcome in their entirety? The relationship between the gentle Shawn and the fiesty but sensitive Arrietty is one of the most pure and beautiful relationships I have ever seen depicted on film. The parting scene between Arrietty and Shawn is a real tearjerker, but not in a sappy emotional way. There are tears, but purifying tears - tears that you are really better off for having wept because, for a brief moment, you are reminded that disinterested, beautiful love is truly possible in this world; and not only possible, but that it is all that really matters.
From whatever category you examine this movie, it is flawless. A story full of beauty and vivid imagery with gorgeous music and a message that is both uplifting and rich in depth, this movie is perfect for every age. I recommend it as highly as I possible can and give it a rare three out of three tiaras.