Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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The Secret World of Arrietty

Film #291


The Clock family are four-inch-tall people who live anonymously in another family’s residence, borrowing simple items to make their home. Life changes for the Clocks when their daughter, Arrietty, is discovered.

Year 1, Day 296

BEFORE: Last week of classes is finally here so you can bet it’s going to be busy. I hope and plan to continue the marathon all throughout this week but there’s certainly a possibility of a day or two off to accommodate study time. Starting this week off is the last film in the Miyazaki chain, The Secret World of Arrietty (simply Arrietty or The Borrower Arrietty in other countries). This isn’t directed by him, rather it’s just written by him, so it’ll be interesting to see how/if it differs from these past few films.

AFTER: In an unprecedented turn of events, for the first time ever in this movie marathon I will be awarding a film the full five out of five stars for the third film in a row. That’s right: The Secret World of Arrietty matches, and in many ways even surpasses, the amazing filmmaking that I’ve been seeing the last few days. The film certainly has Miyazaki’s mark (it’s produced by his own Studio Ghibli) but in many ways this is the first of these films that, hands-down, without a question, blew me away with no catches.

As I write these reviews I try as much as I can to make them standalone: able to be read and understood without referencing my prior writing. However, I feel that there’s also a great deal of value of reading these reviews sequentially, especially for chains like this Miyazaki chain. If you haven’t been reading along, I’d recommend going back to read my review for Ponyo yesterday and then come back to finish this.

The reason I say this is that for Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo (both of which I awarded full marks - five stars) they both had some minor caveats that I either overlooked because the rest of the film was just so fantastic or that actually helped support the rest of the film to make it as great as it was. With The Secret World of Arrietty most of my observations of the previous films remain the same: amazing and highly detailed visual animation as well as similar themes and tone of the story. I’ll refrain from repeating that all here as I’ve already written it and touched on new points in the other reviews (again: Ponyo is a great summary of sorts for all of this). Instead, I’ll focus on why The Secret World of Arrietty is worthy of all my praise and what truly makes it special.

Simply put, this is the best of these films technically, structurally, and entertainment-wise. Not a hair is out of place nor a leaf unturned. From beginning to end I was enraptured with what I saw and heard. The pacing was perfect - there was never a dull moment nor was it ever too fast where you couldn’t keep up. Each character got the appropriate amount of screen time and development necessary and the story wasn’t too dialogue heavy, relying instead on some of the best camera work I’ve seen in an animated film yet. Not a second went by where I thought of what else I could be watching, of the mounds of reading I have to do later today, or any of the umpteen other stressors in my life right now. I just sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed my time. While I still stick by my five star ratings for Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo more so, The Secret World of Arrietty is easily my new favorite and is the one I would recommend watching without any hesitation.

RATING: 5 out of 5