Anime has never really blown me away as a style, but as a childhood fan of The Borrowers, I had to see where the story would meet the screen. With a cast of voices that includes Will Arnett (Up All Night), Carol Burnett (The Carol Burnett Show), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), and Bridgit Mendler (Good Luck Charlie, Lemonade Mouth), the movie delivers comically, without losing the drama, intensity, or poignant relational dynamics that I remembered from the books. And whether the Borrowers are dealing with their small size, battling with a crow, or avoiding humans, this adaptation delivers with high excitement.
A sickly human (or “Being”) boy named Shawn goes to live with his great aunt Jessica and her live-in maid Hara, just as a Borrower, Arriety, reaches the age of adulthood and goes on her first “borrowing.” We learn from Arriety’s father that borrowers “only take what they can use,” and adults will realize that we’re watching a story about ecology, about symbiotics, and about what it means to be a good steward.
Shawn catches sight of Arriety, much to the dismay of her parents, Pod and Homily, who have their concerns about how humans and Borrowers can relate to each other. Nothing in the past makes them believe that they will successfully live with humans; too many of their kind have fled or disappeared in the wake of humans’ involvement. But it’s clear that Shawn and Arriety are drawn to each other in a mutually beneficial way, as they each work through their lonely lives, even while Hara searches for proof of the little peoples’ existence in hopes of eliminating them.
Overall, Arriety is a terribly friendly film for young children. There is a discussion at one point, led by Shawn, about how everything has to die, but isn’t that basically introduced in every Disney film? What really occurs most remarkably is that Arriety’s bravery proves to give Shawn hope in the face of his scary (and dangerous) heart operation, and it’s clear from the voiceover in the end, that this gets wrapped up nicely. I found that refreshing, the idea of hope, both in Arriety’s example of courage and in the life of a boy who was facing something no one his age should have to deal with.
Shawn has heard of these little people for a long time, from his mother (who travels for business in the face of his operation???), and from the legends surrounding them. He believes even in what he has not yet seen, even while others doubt. In Hebrews 11:1, the author writes that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Shawn has that hope for something better, inspired by bravery and love, and we should have that same hope in the power of the example and teaching of Jesus Christ. It’s powerful, and it’s of the heart, just like Arriety will be (Holy Spirit-like?) in Shawn’s heart, forever.
Special features weren’t as abundant as I expected. You do get Cecile Corbel’s music video for “Arriety’s Song” as well as Bridgit Mendler’s music video for “Summertime” (and the making of). Outside of that, it’s mostly about the Japanese storyboards, spots, etc., while I would’ve greatly enjoyed a feature on how The Borrowers fits the Disney canon, or what exactly its message brings to the screen. But that’s middling stuff compared to this lovely story of friendship, courage, and hope in the midst of all the things we face in this life, big or small.