The Borrowers Review: Life’s All About The Little Things

THE BORROWERS: Boxing Day, BBC1, 7.30pm

Boxing Day is usually the same every year. Turkey sandwiches, Trivial Pursuit and more forced frivolity than you can shake a stick at; sometimes is can be as boring as the brussels sprouts on your plate. However, it’s on occasions such as this that telly is at its best. This year is no exception, with a viewing treat arriving perfectly wrapped in the form of The Borrowers, a new adaptation made especially for the Beeb on Boxmas.

Originally a series of fantasy novels by Mary Norton, you know the story, borrowers are the little people who hide under floorboards and nick the socks of us ‘human beans’ when we’re not looking. Writer Ben Vanstone and Director Tom Harper have adapted this original premise for a modern day audience, turning the quaint and timeless story into an adventurous and humorous jaunt filled with impressive visual gags and emotive performances.

This version has a stellar line-up starring the likes of Stephen Fry, Victoria Wood and Christopher Ecclestone. As you might expect a cast as well-known and beloved as this one does not disappoint; Stephen Fry in particular is perfectly cast as Professor Mildeye, the academic professor who is desperate to prove his scientific discovery of ‘human reductus’. This is unsurprising especially when you learn that the role was adapted with him in mind. As a dedicated fan of Blackadder, Ben Vanstone had a cunning plan… “As I was writing Mildeye I did think it’d be great if we could get him on board. I couldn’t believe it when he actually acceptedâ€? he recalls. His vision certainly paid off too; Fry brings most of the comedic sensibility to the film, and while he’s at it surely cranks his contention for National Treasure status up a notch.

Despite the cast of big British names, at the heart of the film are the performances of the young and lesser known actors Charlie Hiscock, Robbie Sheehan (of Misfits fame), and rising star Aisling Loftus (who has so far had small roles on telly and the critically acclaimed short film Dive). It is Aisling’s performance which really makes The Borrowers sing. As well as the design aspects of the film being one of its main successes – watch out for incredible attention to detail in the champagne cork chairs and oversized confectionary – the performance of Aisling is a triumph too. The young actress manages to convey the wide-eyed and spirited nature of Arreitty impressively, and just as we might look upon the tiny world of the borrowers with wonder, amid her release into the oversized and frightening world of ‘beans’ she expresses great awe and courage. The sixteen year olds journey is a great metaphor for any modern day teenager on what it means to grow up and leave the nest.

The Borrowers ticks many boxes. It’s an action-packed adventure, a comedy, a visual delight and a coming-of-age story. It’ll probably suit all.

More than anything it’s the perfect thing to watch at Christmas. Put your feet up, sit back and crack open another box of Quality Street. At least you’ve got the perfect excuse for that dwindling supply of toffee pennies. Oh, those pesky borrowers….