When the lauded Studio Ghibli announces a new film,
the world takes notice. But not me. Even though I'm a big Ghibli fan, I
simply trust their skills well enough to know every new project they
produce will reach a certain level of quality that will satisfy me. And
The Borrowers is definitely no exception. The only question that remains
is how well it compares to other Ghibli films and whether Yonebayashi
was able to beat Miyazaki at his own game.
Even though I'm a big supporter of most Ghibli films, the past ten years
they've done very little to explore the boundaries of the anime
universe. They've been producing pretty much the same film over and over
again without worrying too much about innovation. Sure there are
differences between films like Ponyo and Howl, but the bottom line is
always pretty much the same. All their films feature that same trademark
Ghibli charm that people have come to expect from them. This is not
necessarily a bad thing, though I do miss the occasional off-center
project like Yamadas or Ocean Waves.
The Borrowers is based on a story by Mary Norton. More and more Ghibli
is looking to the West for inspiration, lucky for me they usually dig up
something I haven't read or seen before. Apparently Norton's story is
quite well-known here, but it went by me completely when I was a kid. So
even though I can't really compare this film to the original, I still
believe the story itself is universal and simple enough to work
independent of its source material.
The Borrowers is about a family of "little people", living underneath
the porch of an old country house. Once in a while they head upstairs to
borrow some of the inhabitants stuff, but only things that will not be
missed. When Arrietty is old enough to undertake her first Borrow, she
is spotted by a young boy living in the house. The two learn to
appreciate each other's company, but when the cleaning lady discovers
the hideout of the little people things get a little too hairy for
Arrietty's family, urging them to move out of the house.
Visually the film bears the typical Ghibli style. There is some CG, used
very sparingly throughout the film, all the rest is hand-drawn. The
backgrounds are colorful, the animation is detailed and life-like and
some of the set pieces are absolutely lush. The art style itself is not
all that original though and Ghibli doesn't seem to be making all that
much progress on a technical level. There aren't many instances where
the film actually knows to woo its audience with some impressive camera
work or character animation. It's not really a problem yet, but I can't
imagine them keeping this up for another ten years.
The soundtrack on the other hand is a bit more daring. Joe Hisaishi
wasn't invited to the party this time around, instead French artist
Cécile Corbel was issued to provide the music for The Borrowers. Her
voice is quite unique, which gives the film some much needed identity.
Once you're used to it (the first time she starts singing is a small
shock) the score is actually quite nice and helps plenty to define the
film's overall feel.
The voice acting is traditionally strong. I actually can't imagine
Ghibli delivering a sub-par performance here. There aren't that many big
names on the cast list (many TV talents), but they do a pretty solid
job nonetheless. For those of you who can't stand Japanese, rest assured
that there aren't any grating child actors in this film, most of the
dialogue is delivered in soft, easy-on-the-ears Japanese.
The first fifteen minutes I felt like I was watching just another Ghibli
film. Even though it was nice enough, I really got the feeling I
watched it all before. But then the usual Ghibli magic started kicking
in and all what came before was forgotten in a mere second. There aren't
many companies who can pull this off, usually lack of creativity of
chance is a real show-stopper for me, but the feel of a Ghibli film
remains quite unique and is pretty much impossible to produce outside
the Ghibli realm.
The Borrowers keeps the dramatic tension to a minimum and leaves lot of
room for simple, childlike wonder. One of the nicest scenes is where the
old lady of the house showcases her old doll house. The scene itself
doesn't add much to the plot and could be seen as a pure waste of
storytelling time, but it's just amazing to see an old lady relive the
past like that. It's these kind of moment that set the studio apart from
other players in the market, and what makes Ghibli films so enjoyable
Ghibli fans will know what to expect when they go and see this film. It
doesn't really bring anything new to the table, but the typical Ghibli
charm is still very much there and guarantees you ninety minutes of
harmless, relaxing entertainment. The film really puts you at ease,
leaving you a little sad when you're finally pulled back to the real
world. People not familiar with Ghibli should probably look elsewhere
for their entry film as the studio produced better films over the years,
but I can't imagine many people actively disliking this film.
Do you feel this content is inappropriate or infringes upon your rights? Click here
to report it, or see our DMCA policy