It’s been many years since I’ve read Mary Norton’s “Borrowers” books, although when I was a child I loved this world of tiny people and their remarkable ingenuity, living beneath the houses of “human beans” and borrowing what they needed to survive.  There’s always a danger that a film studio will take a much-loved book and make a hash of it, and knowing that Studio Ghibli had relocated the book to modern-day Tokyo didn’t sound promising.

It turns out there was nothing to worry about.  Setting the film in an aging mansion outside Tokyo takes nothing away from the story. Sho, a boy waiting for a heart operation, is sent to stay with his aunt while his mother is away on business. Neglected and lonely, he encounters Arrietty, a teenage Borrower living under the floorboards with her parents. Arriety’s family may be the last Borrowers left, and, in her own way and despite her loving parents, she is as lonely as Sho.

Arrietty is as beautifully animated as you would expect from Studio Ghibli, with a wealth of tiny detail that bears repeated viewing, especially in the miniature, intricate world beneath the floorboards.  The sight of the world through Borrower eyes is fascinating, where woodlice make excellent footballs and drops of rain fall like fists from the sky.

The film is an excellent addition to the Ghibli library, and hopefully will send young fans back to seek out the original books.