Scroll To Top

Grab Bag Review: ‘The Secret World of Arrietty’ Is Big Enough To Steal Your Heart

Up until a couple years ago, I had no idea what Studio Ghibli was. I’ve never been a fan of Anime or any type of Japanese animation. I watched parts of Ghost In The Shell and have been tempted to see Akira, but I never watched those films from beginning to end. A couple years ago I saw Ponyo pop up on my cable “On Demand.” The kids seemed game to watch it, so I decided to put it on. My kids were enthralled and I was shocked at how much I loved that movie. A lot of that film is built upon how the story is told. I definitely got pulled inside that story, and we probably watched it a couple more times over that weekend. Full disclosure, I’m still not a huge fan of this animation style. If feels like the frames stutter and are moving in slow motion. It pulls me out of the film sometimes. But, the story is what keeps me interested the most. The Secret World of Arrietty is similar in this way.

About a month or two ago during an interesting twitter chat for Movie Talk On Sunday (or #MTOS for short), a question was asked…Studio Ghibli or Pixar? Which do you prefer? Believe it or not, there were a lot of Ghibli fans. Perhaps Pixar is too mainstream or polished. Maybe Ghibli is enticing based on the fact that it isn’t a popular American/UK studio. The bottom line is that both Pixar and Ghibli have made films that were able to compete with big budget live action films, and in some instances beat them at the box office. The great thing about Pixar and Ghibli is that they have created films that captivate audiences young and old. They don’t pander to the youth or fill their films with over the top adult humor. It’s right down the middle enjoyable entertainment. So I guess what I’m saying here is, give Ghibli films a shot if you have never taken the time to see them.

Moving on to why I’m really writing this post…my review of The Secret World of Arrietty. This is an animated adaptation of the book series “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton, published in 1952. The story follows fourteen year old Arrietty Clock (Bridgit Mendler) and her parents Pod (Will Arnett) and Homily (Amy Poehler), who live under the floorboards of “Human Beans” (or Beans for short). They “borrow” things to live, taking only what they need. Living in constant fear that they will be discovered and captured, they work to remain hidden from the rest of the world. Until one day when a sick young boy, Shawn (David Henrie), moves into the home where Arrietty lives. After being discovered by the boy, Arrietty’s father Pod begins plans to move out of the home before they are captured and possibly killed.

Even though I may not be a fan of the animation style of the film, I can’t deny that this movie has some brilliant colors. Each scene could be a painting. That is the impression I get from the visual aspect of this movie. Like each frame was hand painted on canvas and then pieced together. Mix that with a story that is compelling and emotional, and I was captivated. I really enjoyed the story of this film. I don’t want to give too much away. The thing that worked the best was the relationship between Shawn and Arrietty. Even though she has been taught to fear “Beans”, there is something peaceful and endearing about Shawn that she recognizes immediately. It’s that relationship that carries the movie. Shawn is an ill boy, yet they don’t put too much focus on it or make him some sickly young child that you much feel sorry for. Instead they allow you to care for him and the world of Arrietty’s, and in the end Arrietty shows Shawn that life is worth the fight to stay alive. Whether you are the last of your kind, or one among billions, you are important and should fight to live and enjoy your life.

This is an excellent family film. I brought my Five year old daughter along with me and she was entertained the entire time. Which is a little difficult with other movies. There are times that I will leave the theater with my kids and I will ask them about the movie they just saw. I usually want to see if they got any of the plot that was given, or if they can remember any lessons that came from the film. My daughter was definitely exited to retell the story of Arrietty and her families struggle to stay hidden and find a new place to live. She was genuinely excited about this movie and that means that film makers did their job right. Take your family to see this film, it is worth your time.

4.5 out of 5

About the author

Michael Cantrell

Film enthusiast and observer of miscellaneous web findings. Living and working in the Inland Empire, Southern California. Acquired a Bachelor's degree in Television/Film, which is sitting in a file cabinet hidden from the world. General film interests are with independent films, comedies, science fiction and drama. Contributor over at

  • Molly Olecki

    Good to know.  I am a big fan of Ponyo (and I am with you, I don’t care for Anime, but Tina Fey sucked me in as Ponyo’s surrogate “mom”).  I was debating about taking Kate to see this one, but now I think I will.  Good review.