ANIMATION; 1hr 34min
VOICES BY (UK VERSION): Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland, Olivia Colman, Mark Strong
Crack team: Pod and Arrietty
With hand-drawn animation as lush and delicate as Impressionist art, Arrietty is the fanciful story of a family of leaf-sized people living a vividly imagined life in the crevices underneath the floorboards of a regular — but to them disproportionately enormous — Tokyo home. Father Pod (voiced by Strong), mother Homily (Colman) and their 14-year-old daughter, Arrietty (Ronan), survive by “borrowing” from their oblivious human hosts. A lump of sugar here, a Kleenex there, and never enough to attract attention.
When a bird or a house cat can kill you, secrecy is paramount — until Arrietty blows the wee ones’ invisibility deal by mistakenly revealing herself to a sad and frail little boy, Sho (Holland), visiting for the summer. Studio Ghibli animator turned director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s gorgeous and inventive film of Mary Norton’s 1952 novel The Borrowers is a soulful joy. It’s missing the wow-factor of Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle, and the meditative pace doesn’t scream Infant-Friendly. But that, and its affirmation of an probability-defying friendship, is also a key part of its charm.