The Borrowers (1997 film)

The Borrowers is a 1997 fantasy comedy film directed by Peter Hewitt. The film stars John Goodman, Jim Broadbent, Celia Imrie, Mark Williams, Hugh Laurie and Bradley Pierce. The film is loosely based on the 1952 children's novel of the same name by author Mary Norton. In 1998, it was nominated for Best British Film in the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards, but lost to Gary Oldman's film Nil by Mouth.

The Borrowers
Borrowers ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPeter Hewitt
Written by
Based onThe Borrowers
by Mary Norton
Produced by
  • Trevor Brooker
  • John Fenner
Edited byDavid Freeman
Music byHarry Gregson-Williams
Hans Zimmer (score producer)
Distributed byPolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Release date
  • 5 December 1997 (1997-12-05)
Running time
89 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Budget$29 million
Box office$54 million[1]

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.[2] When the film was released in the United Kingdom, it opened on No. 2, behind Alien Resurrection. The next week, the film regained the position, though under Tomorrow Never Dies.[3][4]


Young Pete Lender sets up traps throughout his home, explaining to his parents, Joe and Victoria, that small household items, which they believe are simply misplaced, are being stolen. In actuality, the Clock family of tiny people known as "Borrowers" are secretly living in the house, taking things without being seen by "human beans". Lawyer Ocious P. Potter informs the Lenders that he cannot find the will of Victoria’s late aunt Mary Alabaster – the family’s only evidence that their house rightfully belongs to them – and he has already made plans to demolish their house and build condominiums, forcing the Lenders to move.

Pod Clock and his children, Arrietty and Peagreen, make their way through the kitchen to "borrow" a battery to bring back to his wife, Homily. Arrietty treats herself to ice cream in the freezer, and is accidentally trapped inside as the Lenders return. Pod rescues her via the ice dispenser, but is forced to leave one of his gadgets behind. Later, Arrietty ventures out alone and is caught by Pete, who explains that the house is being demolished in the absence of the will. Arrietty warns her family and, despite her parents’ misgivings, Pod reluctantly agrees and Pete smuggles the Clocks onto the Lenders’ moving truck to join them at their new home. Pete repairs and returns Pod’s gadget to him, earning his trust. As the truck pulls away, Arrietty and Peagreen accidentally fall out, and make their way back to the house.

Potter soon arrives at the house, revealing that he lied to the Lenders; having a distrust of banks, Mrs. Alabaster had actually hidden her will – officially leaving her property to the family – inside the house. He finds the will in a hidden safe and prepares to burn it, but Arrietty and Peagreen flee with the document. Discovering the Clocks’ home beneath the floorboards, Potter summons Exterminator Jeff to eliminate the Borrowers, and is sprayed with caustic foam and electrocuted in the process. Police Officer Oliver Steady responds to the disturbance, but Potter manages to throw off his suspicions while Arrietty and Peagreen escape with the will.

Peagreen accidentally stumbles and falls into an empty milk bottle and is collected and brought back to the dairy, with Potter, Jeff, and Jeff’s flatulent bloodhound in pursuit, followed by Pete, Pod, and Homily. Spud Spiller, an "outie" Borrower living on the street, takes Arrietty to the dairy, where Pod rescues Peagreen from the assembly line. Potter captures the Borrowers and leaves them to drown in liquid cheese. Spiller taunts Potter, who drops him in a machine, seemingly killing him, and departs with the will. Pete saves the Clocks, and Jeff, realizing Potter's scheme, has a change of heart and drives them to City Hall to stop Potter from arranging the house’s demolition.

In retaliation for Potter’s rudeness, the City Hall clerk gives him confusing directions. Eventually reaching the demolitions office, Potter is confronted by Jeff and Pete, but then pushes them out of the way. He then enters the office, only to find himself tricked and locked in a supply room. The Clocks tie him up with electrical tape, but he breaks free and recaptures them. Before Potter can vacuum up the family, Spiller arrives with an army of Borrowers who subdue him, and Pod delivers a warning to Potter on behalf of all Borrowers. They disappear as Pete and Jeff arrive with Officer Steady. Pete shows Steady the will, proving Potter’s plan to cheat the Lenders out of their house, and Potter is promptly arrested.

The Lenders move back into their home, as do the Clocks, now with food and assistance from Pete. As the Clocks enjoy the company of their old Borrower friends, Minty Branch, Swag Moss and Dustbunny Bin, Arrietty and Spiller sneak away to ride his aerosol paint-propelled roller skate.

During the pre-credits, Potter attempts to explain the existence of the Borrowers, only for the whole station – both cops and convicts – to laugh at him uproariously. The film closes with Potter getting his mugshots taken (which he actually seems to enjoy).


  • John Goodman as Ocious P. Potter, a crooked lawyer who seeks to destroy the Lender family's house.
  • Jim Broadbent as Pod Clock, the patriarch of the Clock family.
  • Mark Williams as Exterminator Jeff, an exterminator who helps Potter.
  • Celia Imrie as Homily Clock, the matriarch of the Clock family.
  • Hugh Laurie as Officer Steady, a police officer who becomes suspicious of Potter's motives.
  • Ruby Wax as Town Hall Clerk
  • Bradley Pierce as Pete Lender, a boy who befriends the Clock family.
  • Flora Newbigin as Arrietty Clock, the daughter of Pod and Homily.
  • Tom Felton as Peagreen Clock, the son of Pod and Homily.
  • Raymond Pickard as Spiller, an "outie" Borrower

In addition, Aden Gillett and Doon Mackichan play Pete's father and mother, respectively.


The film received generally positive reviews upon its release. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 74% based on reviews from 27 critics.[5] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B+ on scale of A to F.[6]

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..."[7]

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."[8]

Home mediaEdit

This film was released on 19 May 1998, on VHS and on 1 April 2003 on DVD.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Borrowers at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ "Reading's starring role in new film". Trinity Mirror. 14 June 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  3. ^ "Weekend box office 5th December 1997 - 7th December 1997". Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  4. ^ "Weekend box office 12th December 1997 - 14th December 1997". Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  5. ^ "The Borrowers (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  6. ^ "BORROWERS, THE (1998) B+". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 20 December 2018.
  7. ^ Green, Dave (17 December 1999). "Watch this". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (13 February 1998). "The Borrowers". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 12 August 2007.

External linksEdit