The Borrowers (1997 film)

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The Borrowers
Borrowers ver1.jpg
US/UK theatrical release poster
Directed by Peter Hewitt
Produced by Tim Bevan
Eric Fellner
Rachel Talalay
Written by Gavin Scott
John Kamps
Based on The Borrowers by
Mary Norton
Starring John Goodman
Jim Broadbent
Celia Imrie
Flora Newbigin
Mark Williams
Hugh Laurie
Bradley Pierce
Tom Felton
Raymond Pickard
Aden Gillett
Music by Harry Gregson-Williams
Cinematography Trevor Brooker
John Fenner
Distributed by PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Release dates
February 21, 1997
Running time
88 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $29,000,000
Box office $22,619,589

The Borrowers is a 1997 British/American live-action comedy film based on the children's novel of the same name by author Mary Norton. In 1998 it was nominated for the title of Best British Film in the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards, but lost to Gary Oldman's Nil by Mouth. The film also picked up another two nominations and one win in awards. Some of the film's scenes were shot on location in the village of Theale, near Reading, Berkshire, where all of the buildings and shops in the High Street were painted dark green.[1]


Young Pete Lender (Bradley Pierce) is setting up traps around his house, explaining to his parents that things in their house are being stolen, despite his parents believing otherwise. However, it turns out that a family of tiny people ("Borrowers"), are living in the house, borrowing stuff without being seen. Pod Clock (Jim Broadbent) and his children, Arrietty (Flora Newbigin) and Peagreen (Tom Felton), make their way through the kitchen to "borrow" the radio's battery. Arrietty, while treating herself with some ice cream in the freezer, is accidentally shut inside just as the Lenders return. Pod manages to rescue Arietty, but jams the ice cube tube in the process and is forced to leave one of his gadgets behind, which is found by Mr. Lender. Meanwhile, the will of Mrs. Lender's aunt Mrs. Allabaster is the only proof that the house rightfully belongs to the family, yet their lawyer Ocious P. Potter (John Goodman) cannot find it and has already made plans to demolish their house in order to build condominiums on the land, and the Lenders have until Saturday to move away.

Arietty wanders off and is trapped by Pete, who is actually astonished to discover the Borrowers. Pete also explains to Arietty that the house is being demolished due to the absence of Mrs. Allabaster's will, meaning that both families will have to move. After Arrietty explains the situation to her family, Pod reluctantly agrees to have the family move to the new house, despite being somewhat upset that Arrietty has defied so much about the way of the Borrowers. Unfortunately, during the journey, Arrietty and Peagreen fall out of the moving truck and make their way back to the old house, where they find the new house on a map. However, Potter turns up and finds the will hidden in a safe inside the wall. It turns out that Mrs. Allabaster had stated that she did not trust banks and preferred to keep the will in the house, something Potter deliberately kept from his clients. But as he tries to burn it, Arrietty and Peagreen recover the will, determined to save the house for both the Lenders and the Clocks. Upon seeing the Clocks' underground home, Potter calls the local exterminator Jeff (Mark Williams), but they manage to escape. Potter and Jeff give chase by having Jeff's bloodhound Mr. Smelly sniff Peagreen's jacket and follow the scent to a milk factory. Along the way, they occasionally bump into a local police officer named Officer Oliver Steady (Hugh Laurie) who questions their actions regarding the Lender house. Around the same time, Jeff starts to question Potter's intention of killing the Borrowers after seeing how truly capable that they are, resulting Potter to break off with him. Peagreen becomes trapped in an empty milk bottle and taken into the factory with Arrietty unable to save him, but another Borrower named Spud Spiller (Raymond Pickard) of the "Outies" (an outdoor borrower) shows up and offers help. Together they manage to make their way through the factory and locate Peagreen and force their way past Potter, dousing him in a shower of liquid cheese in the process.

Meanwhile, Pod and his wife, Homily, discover that their children are missing and, with Pete's help, track them to the milk factory. Pod rescues Peagreen from drowning in a milk bottle just as Arrietty and Spiller reunite with them. Unfortunately, Potter catches them, steals the will and ties them to the cheese machine, intending to drown them in the liquid cheese. Spiller cheeks Potter to the point that Potter dumps him in another machine, apparently killing him. Just before the cheese can hit, Pete arrives and turns the machine off.

With Jeff's help, Pete and the Borrowers follow Potter to City Hall to stop him arranging the demolition. He is briefly stalled thanks to the receptionist who gives him confusing directions to the demolition office in response to his rude behavior. When he finally reaches the door, he finds himself trapped inside the storeroom instead where the Clocks tie his hands to his face with Sellotape. In his rage, Potter breaks off and attempts to vacuum the Clocks when an army of Borrowers turns up to save them. The Borrowers tie Potter up with wire and a ceiling fan and it is revealed that Spiller had survived the machine at the factory and summoned the army of Borrowers to aid the Clocks. Pod delivers a speech to Potter on the Borrowers' behalf. All the Borrowers then disappear as soon as they hear the door open. Pete and Jeff enter with Officer Steady. Pete recovers the will from Potter and shows it to Steady, proving Potter's deceit and his plan to cheat the Lenders out of their house. Potter tries to explain his story, but Steady, unconvinced, arrests him for fraud and theft.

Having obtained the will, the Lenders move back into their house and Pete becomes friends with the Clocks and regularly gives them food while keeping their existence a secret.

As the credits start rolling, Potter is seen at the police station trying to describe the Borrowers to Steady at interrogation only to be mocked and laughed at by the police. As a result, Potter is indicted, and the film closes with his mugshot being taken, though he seems to enjoy it.



The film received generally positive reviews upon its release. Rotten Tomatoes gave 73% of positive reviews. The Guardian has described the film as "A spirited screen version of the Mary Norton stories about the tiny folk who live under the floorboards, and off human scraps. Jim Broadbent and Celia Imrie are a joy as the parents of little Arrietty..." [2] Roger Ebert in his review described the film, in the wake of numerous television adaptations, as a "big-screen, big-budget version with special effects so amusing it's like Toy Story has come to life...the charm comes in the way The Borrowers makes its world look like a timeless story book. If the action and the physical humour are designed to appeal to kids, the look of the film will impress adults who know what to look for."[3]


  1. ^ "Reading's starring role in new film". Trinity Mirror. 14 June 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Watch This Dave Green, December 17, 1999, The Guardian
  3. ^ The Borrowers Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, February 13, 1998, accessed August 12, 2007

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