Last night I went with my daughter to see “The Secret World of Arrietty,“ a Studio Ghibly film based on “The Borrowers“ by Mary Norton. I adored these books when I was a kid. After seeing the movie, I remember why they were so captivating. Who doesn’t want to dream about little tiny people who genuinely could use the dollhouse furnishings? It made so much sense to me. Of course that’s where the stray buttons and spools of thread went when we couldn’t find them. They were borrowed by the little people. And yet, wouldn’t it be a life of adventure, too? All this needing to hide from the big people, encountering insects nearly your size and the borrowing itself, which requires a borrower to combine the hardiness of a mountaineer with the cunning of a spy.
I remember spending hours trying to create my own little borrower homes with items from around the house. Um, sorry Mom, that is where the missing buttons and thread spools went. I bent paper clips and stuck them through an upended cardboard bank check box to try to simulate a closet. It didn’t look great, but I give myself and A for effort.
It was a true joy watching this movie as an adult. As with all Studio Ghibli productions, the animation was outstanding. If ever a movie called for attention to detail, it’s this one. The fields of wild flowers, in particular, caught my eye. I could pick out individual types of flowers – black-eyed susans and bachelor’s buttons.
Though differing from the book in some regards, the movie was faithful to the basic story and the spirit of the original. My only quibble is with the character of the borrower named Homily, who is Arrietty’s mother. I thought the movie made her too panicky and fretful. If I remember correctly (and I do, because I looked it up), in the book it was Homily who sent Arrietty out borrowing. She wasn’t a mom who stayed home and fainted over things.
Still, I love that the movie, like the books, doesn’t go for the cheap, easy, saccharine ending. It keeps the complexities of the relationships between borrowers and human beans.
My recommendation: see the movie and read the books. I’m going to re-read them myself.