Entertainment » Movies

Shoplifters

by Jason Southerland
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Nov 23, 2018
'Shoplifters'
'Shoplifters'  

"Maybe the bond is stronger when you choose your family," says the underemployed Nobuyo (Ando Sakura) to her grandmother (Kiki Kilin). She is referring to the young girl her husband found hungry and cold in the street and brought home a few weeks early. Home, in this case, is a tenement in a poor neighborhood in Tokyo where this quirky family ekes out various existences, from peep show hostess to day laborer. In "Shoplifters," the Palme d'Or-winning drama from Hirokazu Kore-eda, the aforementioned family includes grandma, Nobuyo, her husband Osamu (Lily Franky), Nobuyo's sister Aki (Matsuoka Mayu), and the boy Shota (Kairi Jyo).

Much of the family's income is derived from various forms of stealing, and Osamu has trained Shota in the art of shoplifting. When they come across the frozen little girl Juri (Miyu Sasaki), Osamu goes full Fagin and trains her and Shota to work together. "Shoplifters" explores the moral gray areas around stealing and even kidnapping: The movie is an unsentimental and honest look at the struggle many Japanese families experience to survive, despite working full-time jobs. The characters are deceitful and live sordid lives, yet they provide Juri with a safe and nurturing environment compared to the home she came from, which was abusive and broken.

Kore-eda's latest film is the culmination of his ability to build a story without self-indulgence or a heavy hand. The brutally frank and conspicuously direct performances lure the audience in with all sorts of questions and disconnects that help deliver a deeply affecting and satisfying climax as we learn who these people really are and how they are connected. Ultimately, "Shoplifters" tells the story of six damaged and down-on-their-luck people with questionable ethics who scrape together an existence and choose to call each other family - a parable for so many people living in cities all over the world today.

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