In a portrayal of a lower class Japanese family, director Hirokazu Koreeda explores again the theme of family and the driving force of children. Yet to him, a family may not be blood related. Only care and respect defines a family - except here the parents teach the kids to shoplift.
The film opens with a father (Lily Franky) and son (Jyo Kairi) picking up a girl (Miyu Sasaki) shivering in her cold balcony and brought her to their warm home with hot meals. The audience then slowly see other members of the family - mother (Sakura Ando), grandma (Kirin Kiki) and granddaughter (Mayu Matsuoka). But as the story unfolds, we would discover more how they are related.
Although it is not blood that links them together, the family is close with an interdependent relationship or team work that also involves love and care. Grandma has her retirement fund but she does not want to die alone, and she cares for others with very sharp perception and emotions. Would this be a better alternative than putting the lonely elderlies into a nursing home? The characters do not ask the government to change policy. Instead, they take the matter in their own hands and form their own way of existence.
Mom and Pa probably have fertility issues but they care for each other and bring in more children in their own ways. Here it echoed the director's theme in "Like father, like son" - it does not matter if it is blood related as long as there is love, also in "Nobody knows" - many family secrets and the community is kind to kids. It was not clear how Akiko, the grandma's hubby's mistress' granddaughter got into the family. But she is a lonely soul and seeks comfort from another lonely patron (Sosuke Ikematsu) who is also a marginal character in society. In fact, all the family members are marginal members in society, living in the crack of the city center and can only "listen" to the fireworks.
Echoing the importance of quality time as shown in "Like father, like son", here all the meal times are bonding time. A trip to the beach naturally slide in sex education. All these require sensitive and perceptive adults even though they do not have kids/grandkids of their own. This can be a wake-up call for the aging Japanese society with decreasing birthrates and growing trend of singleton. Would this pluralistic family be an alternative for the basic human need of affection?
Of course the controversial part is the family's profession - shoplifting. But in their perception, they just reuse and recycle what other people abandon. They do not snatch. They just pick up people/things that others do not want - wife, son, daughter, grandma, clothes and household items (if they are in the store they do not belong to anyone). Then they treasure whatever they have or whoever they are.
Very smooth and delicately written script. Excellent acting: low key and natural and yet so believable. But it was the kids that steal the show. Their innocence yet determination makes you feel both sad and happy. In this extended but close-knit family where all members were picked up by chance, there is lot of love. The family decides to stick together and stay on. Even the picture book Shota the son reads is a story of uniting to fight a bigger enemy - swimmy fish against the big tuna. Really subtle script writing.
Sad but also heartwarming. All the adults are very sensitive and caring, perhaps a projection of the director. They are also very reserved and do not say "thank you" or "dad" out aloud.
We see lots of recurring themes here. It seems that "Shoplifters" can be an extension of "Nobody knows" where we see how kids are abandoned in their own home. "Shoplifters" give them a new home. Unfortunately it is a solution not approved by the system. Yet the same issues exist all along: kids are left in the car in "Nobody knows" - who become the picked up Shota in "Shoplifters". Dead bodies have to be buried. Mealtime is a bonding time: from curry to instant ramen to paper. Parent's haircut shows their care etc ...
Overall, it shows lots of issues in modern Japanese society and offered some light for the future, one that might deviate from the establishment/tradition or morality but built with lots of passion, hope and care. The director really cares for the society and is exploring whether a self-pick family would work. In his world it does but the system does not seem to allow it. Unlike "Nobody knows" which has bright sunshine in the end signaling hope, "Shoplifters" has a more pessimistic outlook, as if announcing the impracticality of the director's exploration of this new family formation.
Great movie. Highly recommended.
Crime / Drama
Crime / Drama
A Japanese couple stuck with part-time jobs and hence inadequate incomes avail themselves of the fruits of shoplifting to make ends meet. They are not alone in this behaviour. The younger and the older of the household are in on the act. The unusual routine is about to change from care-free and matter-of-fact to something more dramatic, however, as the couple open their doors to a beleaguered young girl. The reasons for the family's habit and their motivations come under the microscope.
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March 29, 2019 at 01:55 PM