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The Secret World of Arrietty (2012)


Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 122
Fresh: 115
Rotten: 7

Critics Consensus: Visually lush, refreshingly free of family-friendly clatter, and anchored with soulful depth, The Secret World of Arrietty lives up to Studio Ghibli's reputation.

Average Rating: 8/10
Reviews Counted: 32
Fresh: 32
Rotten: 0

Critics Consensus: Visually lush, refreshingly free of family-friendly clatter, and anchored with soulful depth, The Secret World of Arrietty lives up to Studio Ghibli's reputation.


Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 59,129


Movie Info

Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler), a tiny, but tenacious 14-year-old, lives with her parents (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) in the recesses of a suburban garden home, unbeknownst to the homeowner and her housekeeper (Carol Burnett). Like all little people, Arrietty (AIR-ee-ett-ee) remains hidden from view, except during occasional covert ventures beyond the floorboards to "borrow" scrap supplies like sugar cubes from her human hosts. But when 12-year-old Shawn (David Henrie), a human boy who comes to … More

Animation , Art House & International , Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By:
Keiko Niwa , Mary Norton , Hayao Miyazaki , Karey Kirkpatrick
In Theaters:
May 22, 2012
Box Office:
Walt Disney Pictures - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for The Secret World of Arrietty

All Critics (123) | Top Critics (32) | Fresh (115) | Rotten (7) | DVD (6)

The fresh and simple story will win its share of young fans, though it lacks the disturbing adult elements might have attracted older audiences.

Full Review… | January 7, 2013
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

[The film] pulses with feeling for childhood and nature and develops a surprising amount of suspense considering it takes place around a single suburban home.

Full Review… | January 7, 2013
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The Secret World of Arrietty is a marvelously captivating animated feature about very tiny people and the full-scale world they inhabit.

Full Review… | February 17, 2012
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic

Yonebayashi gives Arrietty an excellent sense of balance, with the adventure aspects of the story, which feel legitimately dangerous providing well-paced contrast the film's more placid moments.

Full Review… | February 17, 2012
The Atlantic
Top Critic

It's an enjoyable and attractive-looking film, but a little of that "Speed Racer" energy wouldn't have been such a bad thing.

Full Review… | February 17, 2012
Top Critic

The visual details are inventive, and the animation - particularly the colors - is lovely.

Full Review… | February 17, 2012
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic

There are undeniable signs of this being a first-feature from an "unproven" director, but there's also a confidence in Yonebayashi that elevates the material a great deal.

Full Review… | May 25, 2014
Movie Mezzanine

Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi explores a hidden ecosystem within our own ecosystem, defining the very fragility of nature at our doorstep.

Full Review… | November 27, 2013
Cinema Crazed

The Secret World of Arrietty is a return to the land of imagination that is so often the basis for these beautiful films, which continually show that animation can be so much more than just a cartoon.

Full Review… | January 23, 2013
We Got This Covered

With The Secret World of Arrietty, Yonebayashi proves himself to be not just a worthy successor to Miyazaki, but an accomplished visionary in his own right.

Full Review… | January 7, 2013
TV Guide's Movie Guide

It's not quite on the level of some of the studio's other works, but [it's] still fascinating to watch for its beautiful animation, interesting characters, and the heartwarming relationship between Shawn and Arrietty.

Full Review… | September 17, 2012

Studio Ghibli's best film since Miyazaki's eco-fable masterpiece Spirited Away. Its story is impeccably paced, its look beautifully imagined, and its drama perfectly built-up. Bristles, underfoot, with some delightful feminism and environmentalism.

Full Review… | May 10, 2012
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

There's a gentle movie from Japan that's going to seem familiar to a lot of fans of the series of books about 'The Borrowers.'

Full Review… | April 21, 2012
Quad City Times (Davenport, IA)

Like motion picture Yoga--quietly cathartic and just the thing to raise your kids on.

Full Review… | April 16, 2012
Spectrum (St. George, Utah)

As pretty as it is, this Secret World is too Earthbound by far.

Full Review… | March 23, 2012
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

It certainly belongs in the second rank of Ghibli fantasies. But give it a chance.

Full Review… | March 12, 2012
East Bay Express

Most will be caught up in its beautiful spell, immersed in great storytelling at its finest.

Full Review… | March 9, 2012
San Francisco Examiner

The soft-focus animation has an impressionistic quality, as if a gentle breeze had wafted across a Monet canvas.

Full Review… | March 4, 2012

This smart, winsome fairy tale is not quite Hiyao Miyazaki, but it still might be the best animated film that (some few) will see all year.

Full Review… | March 2, 2012

Another Studio Ghibli wonder, as heartbreaking for its devotion to craft, artistry and intelligent storytelling (for viewers of all ages) as for its themes of inevitable exile and impossible love.

Full Review… | March 2, 2012
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

...yet another jewel in the crown of Studio Ghibli.

Full Review… | February 25, 2012
New England Movies Weekly

...creates a sense of wide-eyed wonder and discovery as we experience the awe-inspiring mysteries of an ordinary house as seen from the four-inch borrower's point of view.

Full Review… | February 24, 2012
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

The animation, a gorgeous blend of bewitching watercolored backgrounds and poignantly rendered characters, is, as ever, beyond reproach.

Full Review… | February 24, 2012
Austin Chronicle

What is most effective is the way the sense of peaceful shelter and retreat in the country setting contrasts with the precariousness of the situations faced by Shawn and Arrietty.

Full Review… | February 24, 2012

Audience Reviews for The Secret World of Arrietty


Jennifer D

Super Reviewer


Japanese version of the Borrowers.

Candy Rose

Super Reviewer

The stories of the little people was originally conceived in the book series "The Borrowers" about a group of tiny people who would "Borrow" small things from people that they need. 50 years after the novel was written, Director Hayao Miyazaki decided to do his take on this story.

The story is about a young boy with medical problems named Shawn (David Henrie) being sent to his moms childhood house where she was told stories of small people who lived under the floor. He sees a strange creature when he is outside when he first arrives and thinks it looks like a little person. This creature ends up actually being a little person, a 14 year old girl named Arriety (Bridgit Mendler) who lives with her two parents (Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) who are borrowers who are small people who "Borrow things such as soap, cookies, and other small things that humans don't need when they disappear. Shawn ends up seeing Arriety on her first night of "Borrowing" and his curiosity was picked very far when she drops sugar in his room and he drops it off in the hole near her house. Arriety questioning this is told not to take the sugar because her father thinks its a trap but she sneaks out and ends up becoming friends with Shawn.

Like many of Ghiblis movies as I said before, usually get heavily Disney associated actors such as David Henrie from Wizards of Waverly Place and Moises Arias who was on Hannah Montana. But this movie also like Ghiblis other movies get moderately big actors or much older actors, such as in this film they got Carol Burnett, and Amy Poelher and Will Arnett. All of them do regular great jobs and one actor I think does the best job overall is surprisingly David Henrie as Shawn. He has such an innocent and monotone voice that it is impossible not to feel sorry for him when you find out about what is wrong with him and you feel horrible for all the things that are happening to him. He's both a sympathetic character and a very emotional character, and Henrie pulls this off flawlessly well. Bridget Mendler does a good job as Arriety, being sweet and pulls off the teenage girl getting to figure out the big world very well. Arnett and Poelher both do good as Arriety's parents and it shows due to these two being married in real life and you believe they do care for Arriety and are both believable as these two characters. Carol Burnett is shockingly not that memorable in this movie, she plays the character of Hara, a woman who takes care of Shawn but is obsessed with catching the little people. Maybe its because the character is really not developed that well, but Burnett doesn't really have much to work with with this character in the film, unlike the other elderly actresses that Miyazaki has chosen before such as Suzanne Pleshette in Spirited Away or Lauren Bacall in Howl's Moving Castle.

The animation, again like all of Miyazaki's other animated pictures is incredible, and for a movie with perspectives of smaller people to much larger people and animals leads to some very good eye candy to see in a Miyazaki movie. But other than that there isn't much really to talk about in terms of the animation.

One thing I will say about this movie is that is quite possibly one of the emotional films that I've seen in a while, and one of those reasons is because of the music, the music in this movie are brilliantly done and the film has little to none of it, but they know when to use it to the films advantage, and it works incredibly well when it is used. Using piano music about 80% of the time also helps.

Overall this is so far the best film that I've seen this year and it is definitely a wonderful film to go see, and it is one of the few movies to make me cry at the end, and it is quite possibly Studio Ghiblis most well told story out of all their films. My only problem I have with this movie is that the film does have a somewhat slow pace for a animated movie especially for a 90 minute animated film, but everything is all done extremely well and it is definitely one of Ghiblis best.

Review originally written 2/26/12

michael e.
Michael Edwards

Super Reviewer

While not entirely a Miyazaki film, he is only credited as the co-writer here, it definitely carries some of his signature themes and would nestle up well with the other Ghibli films that you have on your shelf.

It focuses on the plight of Arrietty, a young woman who is one in a long line of little people known as "borrowers", as she timidly navigates her way through this big, and mean big, scary world. Along the way she befriends a sickly human boy named Sho, who borrowers are supposed to be very leery of. and together they form an unlikely kinship that gives them each the fortitude to fight for their very survival. Having the film centered around a very little girl isn't only just a fun way to tell a story, it also cleverly elaborates on the fears of being young and making your own stamp on this world. There are just so many potential dangers out there that finding your place in it can be quite a daunting task.

Unfortunately for adults like Haru, a maid hellbent on discovering these little people. many adults no longer desire to embrace the magical nature of the world around them. She only wants to exploit it to defend her own sanity in the eyes of her peers.

However, other then a clever way to tell a coming of age story, this film really lacked a spark. It lacked vitality. The story at times felt like it was moving at a snail's pace and I wished that director Hiromasa Yonebayashi would have spent a little more time on fleshing out either Arrietty or Sho. Focusing on both of them seemed to shortchange any chance of really getting me involved in these character's lives.

Another problem that I had with the film, aside from the fact that they call themselves "borrowers" even though it is clear they have no intention of returning the products they STEAL, was the music. I have a feeling that during its conversion to the English language, subtlety got lost in translation. The music is often so on the nose tonally and lyrically that it was almost comical. When someone is sad, the music quickly sweeps in with some bad Lifetime Network score. I'm not necessarily blaming the filmmakers on this one, but someone along the line really blew it.

It is starting to get redundant in my reviews, but seriously the animation is astounding. It is especially impressive here as this film features a great deal of action. The action is accompanied by an excellent sound design. As the film frequently changes perspectives from the little people to the full sized human brings, so does the sound and it is a really smart and exciting touch.

So while not the most groundbreaking film, like all Ghibli, it is smart, visually breath-taking, and completely worth your time.

Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

The Secret World of Arrietty Quotes

Pod (English version):
Borrowers take only what they need.
– Submitted by Frances H (20 months ago)
Shawn (English version):
It's funny how each day you wake up and never really know if it will be one that will change your life forever.
– Submitted by Frances H (20 months ago)
Shawn (English version):
My name's Shawn. What's yours?
Arrietty (English version):
Not that it's any of your business, but it's Arietty.
– Submitted by Mary Kathryn P (21 months ago)
Shawn (English version):
You've given me the courage to live. [right before operation]
– Submitted by Nathan S (2 years ago)
Shawn (English version):
When I saw you, I just wanted to find a way to protect you.
– Submitted by Tenika E (2 years ago)
Arrietty (English version):
[quietly] Yay!
– Submitted by Ben R (2 years ago)

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