The Secret World of Arrietty (2012)
Arrietty (2012): Highlighting Life's Simple Pleasures
By: Domonique Cox-Salberg
Not too often are films made to rejoice in the stillness and life’s simple pleasures—and with so much charm. Luckily, we have The Secret Life of Arrietty (2012) to break away from the busy narratives. Dreamy and lush, the hand-drawn animation and Yonebayashi‘s direction immerse us into a story where tiny beings inhabit an alien world. With each frame, Arrietty’s journey has the power to make us appreciate and yearn for lying in the grass, observing raindrops dripping off the teetering leaves, or watching a ladybug bustle and take flight.
Moreover, Arrietty is a relaxing film unveiling how Miyazaki understands that kids do not need loud, crass, or non-stop action to connect to a story. Instead, it chooses a quiet and comforting tone, with subtle shots of life and nature. Warm, gentle, and pure; these are just some of the many ways to describe this excellent addition to Mayaozki’s work.
A Love Letter To Childhood Enchantment
Thus, Arrietty manages to entertain us through life’s simple pleasures by leading each frame with inventive charisma and the intricate detail of a lovely painting. Seeing how these characters navigate their world and our everyday items from the view of smaller eyes is what drives much of the story’s most memorable aspects, especially their trips to borrow. As when we first meet Arrietty, she is revealed dashing through the towering grass, collecting and borrowing flowers and one bay leaf for her mother to cook with—who comments, happily, how it will last her all year. She has also borrowed a chip clip and fashions it as her new ponytail holder, one of the most endearing things in the movie. Nonetheless, when Arrietty’s father takes her on her first borrowing trip with him, the film’s real inventive flare lies.
Arrietty is excited for her first borrowing with her stoic and caring father, Pod, to fetch sugar and tissue paper upon the mother’s request. We watch as they travel through the walls leaping on nails, fighting off a bug, and prepping tools to collect their items. During this, Pod cuts the tape, which he delightfully attaches onto his feet and hands to climb up the cabinet walls, and a needle and thread to propel the sugar cube back down the massive kitchen fixtures to hand off to Arrietty. The film is filled with endearing scenes like this, where we see everyday items manipulated and used with ingenuity and pleasing wonder.
But even in these clever scenes, the film still has plenty of simple and sublime parts that best define its brilliance. Most notably, when Arrietty spies on the boy, concerned after he leaves them a note. She panics and retrieves a leaf to maneuver as an umbrella to shield herself from the rain. Once in the yard, the camera films her tiny shape wandering through the burying grass as the leaf clenched within her hand appears to float atop the grass. Raindrops everywhere, vibrant foliage, and climbing vines fill the frame. This scene and the others discussed are just a snippet of what The Secret World of Arrietty has to offer, expressed with so much irrevocable beauty. Truly a must-see.