The urge to compare with other Miyazaki films still ever-present. This one reminds me most of Totoro, in its small scale and the way it slowly unfolds. It takes a certain amount of confidence to hold back so much in a film for children (espesh with the digital animation wonders Pixar is coming up with), and it is admirable, although (as ever) I prefer Miyazaki doing visuals and themes in widescreen. Should say he didn't direct Arrietty, he just wrote and produced it, tho I suspect creative control was quite close.
The pivotal scene is the conversation in which Arrietty reveals herself to Sho, where the subject turns to the way humans have changed the environment and have unwittingly destroyed countless species of animal and plant life. I'm not sure if Mary Norton's Borrowers were intended to be a comment on climate change, but this is what they become here, and it is an interesting imaginative conceit to take the POV of the creatures being trampled to extinction. They are tenacious and noble and so on. What's more interesting is the contrast between the unthinking, obsessive housekeeper Haru and the sickly, melancholic Sho – who is inspired by the struggle of the little guys and survives his operation (notably not a spoiler, since we are told this in the very first line of the film).
MOST interesting is the realisation that the Borrowers don't want our help, even though they are in a position of weakness. Arrietty and Sho's relationship can never develop, they are inalterably different and must live separately. My only problem with the film is is why it has to have an unhappy ending – why this inequality cannot be bridged, why humans cannot reach some accommodation with the natural world. Maybe Miyazaki isn't all that sanguine about the prospect, or maybe dramatically it would have been too trite a note to end the film on. But as someone who hopes to live on this planet for some time yet, and still manages to be impressed by the scale of human ingenuity, the tone felt a bit unnecessarily elegiac.