Crime / Drama

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 99%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 90%
IMDb Rating 8 10 31888


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Kicino 9 / 10

What if you can choose your parents and kids in a new family?

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.

Reviewed by bRAdY-01 10 / 10

Heart warming social realism, an instant modern classic

Watched in official En Competition at the Festival De Cannes 2018 on the 14th of May. My favourite film of the festival of the titles in competition films screened, all round excellent performances with deft direction, superbly written this film benefits from being written by a humanist director following in the steps of previous masters like De Sica and Bresson. I really cannot recommend this film highly enough, social realism that shakes you to your heart breaks, an instant modern classic. Ten out of ten.

Reviewed by CountZero313 10 / 10

Koreeda at the top of his game

On the day I watched Shoplifters, the news in Japan was dominated by the story of a 5-year-old girl, beaten and starved by her parents, writing messages in her notebook begging for love. An eerily similar storyline is threaded through Shoplifters, but Koreeda's prescience is no accident - he engaged with similar stories in his 2004 film Nobody Knows. Family, in various degrees of warping, is the focus of Koreeda's opus.

Shoplifters concerns a three-generation family living on the fringes of society. Dad apprentices his son in the art of shoplifting, telling him things on a store shelf do not actually belong to anyone. He also tells the boy that only stupid kids have to go to school, which is why he doesn't. The older daughter performs in a seedy red-light peep show, and Mum works in a low-paid laundry job, searching pockets for any stuff she can pilfer. They live with granny, though any time a visitor comes they all have to hide themselves.

This warm but abnormal family is slowed revealed to be conjoined in ways we did not expect. The catalyst for this is Dad and son bringing home a neglected 5-year-old girl they come across abandoned on an apartment balcony on a freezing winter night. The girl comes home with them, and slots into the family, a pattern, we slowly realise, that has been repeated in the past. Granny was 'picked up,' and the son seems to have arrived by similar means. Their warmth and humanity is at odds with the illegality and disregard for social mores. Society judges such people, but by allowing us intimacy with them, Koreeda shows how society is also judged by them - and found wanting.

The slow revelation of the family's background, the naturalistic interactions, the judicious spacing of shocks and surprises, are all evidence of a master filmmaker in perfect sync with his material. The performances are sublime. Franky Lily and Kirin Kiki are Koreeda regulars and both are tonally perfect here. Koreeda shows that he still has a deft touch with child actors, first seen in Nobody Knows, a film that garnered a Cannes acting award for 12-year-old Yuya Yagira. Jyo Kairi has resonances of Yagira, both in his physical characteristics and his mannerisms. The maturity of his performance is stunning. Sakura Ando is outstanding as the mother-figure, made wise by bitter experience but also upbeat in her approach to life. Her threat to kill a minor character is chilling. One scene, where she performs straight to camera, answering a question on what her 'children' called her, rips your heart out.

There are many set pieces to enjoy here. A sharing of noodles on a humid summer day was one favourite; listening to, but not seeing, a firework display was another (what a metaphor for this family's peripheral status!). But the joy comes from the way the whole thing gels and shimmers, and provides steely insight on contemporary Japanese society, and the human condition. These are flawed individuals and Koreeda does not avert a critical gaze from their individual responsibility. The film explores big questions on living a good life and taking responsibility in an uncaring society. A simply stunning film.

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