Adam Cook’s review published on Letterboxd:
What a truly beautiful film, and whilst the passing of time may change my mind, it is quite possibly the best Studio Ghibli feature since Porco Rosso.
Studio Ghibli are arguably the greatest world builders in all of cinema and despite the real world setting of Arrietty the film still creates a genuinely magical environment for the characters to reside in. I've never liked The Borrowers be it book, TV or film but the scale, attention to detail and sheer sense of wonder conveyed in every single frame of Arrietty is staggering. It is a film that most closely resembles the studios greatest achievement, My Neighbour Totoro, in the way it makes great moments out of small details, the fantastical world hidden within the confines of the back garden and in the appreciation of the little things in life (quite literally). I can see many people finding this film uneventful and anticlimactic but the same comments can be levelled at My Neighbour Totoro yet to do so is to miss the magic of both films. The end is anticlimactic in a traditional Hollywood way yet to the characters the decisions they make are huge personal sacrifices and, in the case of Sho, an uncertain future.
The opening twenty minutes of the film is amongst some of the best scenes the studio have ever created. I would have happily watched an entire film of the family merely going about their daily borrowing life such was the level of detail and care poured into every frame and the way everyday objects became novel tools or things to fear. The animation is breathtakingly beautiful (particularly in high definition) but this is something you can easily take for granted from Ghibli. The sound design is also noteworthy, particularly the heightened noises when viewed from the borrower's perspective. Although not directed by Miyazaki it is a film that is still concerned with his usual themes (no doubt the fact he scripted Arrietty dictated this) but what was particularly pleasing was that it was less heavy handed here providing a background element rather than a lecture on nature, conservation etc. Whilst Miyazaki will be irreplaceable in the world of animation when he eventually decides to retire it does look like there are still enough talented film-makers at the studio to continue on his legacy.
If you pardon the pun, Arrietty is a mini-masterpiece.