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Movie Review: The Secret World of Arrietty

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Author/Source: Glen A. Woods

Topic: Movie Review, Reviews

A review of The Secret World of Arrietty, including description of the movie, areas of concern, teachable themes, discussion questions, and scriptures to use.

Movie Review: <em>The Secret World of Arrietty</em>


Arrietty is a 14-year-old adolescent who loves her father and mother dearly. She is brave and daring, much to her mother’s dismay and her father’s pride. But aside from these formidable attributes, she is not a typical teenager. Like her parents, she is a Borrower, a race of miniature people who secretly dwell among human beings, taking tiny amounts of items they need to survive from the well-stocked pantries of their larger counterparts.

When she joins her father on one such mission, she catches the attention of 12-year-old Shawn, a human being recently brought to the house so that he can get the rest he needs in peace and quiet.

The Borrower family’s world is set into disarray. Arrietta is rightly suspicious of all things human. Shawn just wants to be her friend. To him, she is beautiful. To her, he is a threat to the Borrowers’ way of life. Until he begins to prove otherwise.

The film is beautifully crafted in the style of Japanese Manga water color, blending a sophisticated eye for minute detail with the subtle use of shadow and highlighting. The stylistic depth achieved through the artwork is matched by a tender, yet serious script which allows for a reasonable amount of character development, particularly for Arrietta and Shawn. She and her family are in imminent danger of discovery and capture. He is scheduled for heart surgery, facing unknown dangers away from his family who should have been there for him. We get to know something of their hopes and fears, their strengths and weaknesses, their need for each other in their darkest moments. We are better for it. And in the end, so are they...


The movie is safe for people of all ages. Younger children might become bored in parts of the movie because of its periodic reliance on dialogue. This is first a character driven film, although it does contain plenty of action. A couple of the scenes might be a bit scary for very sensitive young children, but most kids should be fine.

Teachable Themes

  • We Do Not Have to Give Up Hope
  • There is a difference between being content in all situations and giving up hope. Arrietta challenges Shawn’s fatalistic attitude toward his heart surgery, inspiring hope and courage in him.

  • A Person Who is Different or Stronger Than Us is Not Automatically Evil
  • For the first time, the Borrower family learns of a human being who defends the weak and shows them compassion without wanting something in return.

  • Families are Intended to Love Each Other and to Help Each Other
  • Arrietta’s mother loves her daughter dearly, even if she worries a bit too much. Her father provides a stabilizing calm, trusting Arrietta with responsibility, but also correcting wrong decisions. Their mutual love for each other translates into Arrietta’s risky decision to trust Shawn, thereby giving him a sense of the family bond which he previously lacked.

Biblical Reference

  • We Do Not Have to Give Up Hope
    • Hebrews 6:19: We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain

    • Romans 5:1-5: Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

    • Romans 12:12: Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

  • A Person Who is Different or Stronger Than Us is Not Automatically Evil
    • 1 Samuel 16:7: But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."

    • Psalm 51:6: You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart

  • Families are Intended to Love Each Other and to Help Each Other
    • Ephesians 6:1-4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" -- this is the first commandment with a promise:"so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
    • Colossians 3:12-21: As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart.

    Discussion Questions

    1. Have you ever felt so afraid that you forgot that God loves you? What did you do about it?

    2. Shawn learned from Arrietta that even though heart surgery is still scary, he does not have to live in fear. He can face it with courage. Is there anything in your life in which you need God to give you courage?

    3. What might you do in your family to help make it more supportive and loving like Arrietta’s family?

    4. What changes might you make in your life to honor your father and mother, like Arrietta sought to do?


    The Secret World of Arrietta deserves to become a cherished family film which is enjoyed by this and future generations. It’s that good. It combines masterful storytelling with beautiful animation to create an artistic masterpiece sure to provoke family conversations about hope and trust, friendship with those different than ourselves, as well as obedience to parents, and many other topics. It is a story sure to inspire children, as well as adults.

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