Hirokazu Kore-eda is on familiar ground with Shoplifters, the story of an unconventional family unit on the fringes of society who beg, steal and borrow to get by. It’s the most fun Kore-eda has been in years, but also teaches some tough lessons. The shoplifting scenes alone have their own poignant narrative arc, opening with a set-piece somehow reminiscent of both Hot Fuzz and Ocean’s Eleven, and ending with a spiky epilogue about the real costs of Osamu (Lily Franky) and his son Shota’s (Kairi Jyo) carefree thieving.
The subtlety of Kore-eda’s script is astonishing, crafting real insight and powerful character development out of the most innocuous and entertaining conversations. Often you don’t even realise how hard he has hit you with a throwaway line until scenes later. Even more inspiring is the empathy Kore-eda brings to his work, with every action radiating kindness and hope for humanity.
In the past this gentle tone has marked Kore-eda out as a soft touch specialising in moody melancholy, but with Shoplifters reality bites back hard. Osamu and his wife Noboyu (Sakura Andô) may win your hearts by taking in an abused little girl, Juri (Miyu Sasaki), but they’re likely to break them again when the third act reveals some shocking secrets about the family’s past.
Kore-eda promotes the powerful message that the bonds with those we choose to love are much greater than with those we are obligated to, but the context of a struggling economy and a breadline existence throws that all into question.
Kore-eda doesn’t judge the loveable criminals of Shoplifters; sometimes you just do what you must to survive. But what are we willing to sacrifice to scrape by? Our morals, our family, even our freedom? Shoplifters’ final scenes will leave you debating those questions for a long time.
CAST: Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Sôsuke Ikematsu
DIRECTOR: Hirokazu Kore-eda
WRITER: Hirokazu Kore-eda
SYNOPSIS: A family of small-time crooks take in a child they find on the street.