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Film Review: The Secret World of Arrietty

Updated on June 30, 2017

The Secret World of Arrietty is based on the same original novel as the live action Disney film The Borrowers. Similarly, it introduces charming miniature-sized, but big-hearted people, trying to survive in a world made for big people. They're called "borrowers" because they "borrow" small objects from the people living in the house, objects too small to be noticed. The title character, Arrietty, is one such miniature human, a girl trying to find her place in the world and find out if there's a better way of doing things for her people.


Arrietty is kind of similar to Ariel in The Little Mermaid, in that both are warned by their parents of the danger humans pose to their people, yet both are drawn to one particular (male) human out of curiosity and affection. Similarly, the girls' curiosity about humans and affection for one human in particular causes trouble.

Shō, our human male lead, bears little resemblance to Prince Eric, however. He's frail and sickly, bedridden. The house they live in is in a Ghibli-charming rural area, where Shō's great-aunt Sadako and her housekeeper Haru take care of him.


Obviously, there is the issue with Borrowers wanting strictly not to be seen by, let alone talk to, humans. Shō seems sweet and considerate, but Arriety's parents are gravely concerned that the Borrowers' way of life is threatened by humans knowing of their existence. Inevitably, they are found out, and have to leave to find a new home. Shō presumably survives the heart operation he was waiting on, but he never sees Arrietty after they part ways.

Arrietty delivers Studio Ghibli's signature stunning visuals.
Arrietty delivers Studio Ghibli's signature stunning visuals.
The Secret World of Arrietty
Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Screen Writer:
Hayao Miyazaki
Run Time:
95 minutes
Source Material:
Novel "The Borrowers" by Mary Norton


This movie is about what you would expect from Studio Ghibli; adorable and heartwarming family entertainment with absolutely breathtaking visuals. How this story stacks up against Disney's The Borrowers is up for debate, but I felt like I was moved much more by the characters in this one, and it had a lot more charm.

On the other hand, this isn't that great of a film by Ghibli standards. This movie felt a bit dull, and a little too much like they were playing it safe, much like their timid Borrower characters. However, it was cute, funny, heartwarming, and entertaining. This is truly a "fun for the whole family" experience.

Rating for The Secret World of Arrietty: 7/10


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