Winner of the 2018 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and official submission of Japan for Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards in 2019, Shoplifters hits our screens.
After his excellent After The Storm, writer and director Hirokazu Koreeda brings us his third film in as many years (the intervening one being The Third Murder).
Shoplifters begins by telling us the story of a poor family in a region of Japan. They all live under grandma’s roof, Kirin Kiki (“After The Storm“) in her final role before her death in 2018.
When Osamu, Lily Franky (“After The Storm“, “Like Father, Like Son”), and his son Shota, Jyo Kairi (“Erased (TV)”) are walking home one cold evening, they come across a young girl Yuri, Miyu Sasaki (“Samurai Gourmet (TV)”), who appears abandoned, living on the balcony of her home.
The two take her home and Osamu’s wife, Sakura Ando (“For Love’s Sake”, “0.5 Mm”), reluctantly takes this child into the extended family despite the hardships they are already facing to make ends meet.
Osamu and Shota are shoplifters by day, helping each other out with their own sign language. Shota begins passing these skills onto Yuri, until a shopkeeper tells him not to pass his trade onto his little sister.
This sets Shota on to questioning what the family are doing and Koreeda teases out little titbits of information as we progress through the film, suggesting all is not as it seems. When Shota is caught shoplifting, this family’s whole world begins to unravel and some shocking truths come to light.
Koreeda’s writing of Shoplifters is masterful. This tangled web of lies and deceit he has weaved whilst still drawing us into this family, giving them heart, giving us hope. It’s truly a wonderful script.
The film is drama at its absolute best, with all the actors at the top of their game. Kiki is spectactular as grandma, funny and poignant with a mischievous angle to her too.
Franky and his on-screen wife Ando are delightful together, Franky gives his character a sort of unsureness about him or innocence even, despite him being anything but.
The children meanwhile, Kairi and Sasaki, are just delightful to watch. Sasaki is as cute as they come and will melt your heart every time she appears on screen. Kairi has a childlike innocence, following his father, wanting to please yet beginning to question.
You can look at Shoplifters as two films in one. The first hour sets everything up as we’re introduced to the family, the dynamics and how everyone fits together. Koreeda, despite a slight meandering involving a sister who lives with them who’s story doesn’t really go anywhere, does that expertly.
You find yourself drawn in, intrigued at this life in Japan for a family on the bread-line, doing what they can to get by, but all pulling together.
The second hour though, is when the movie shifts gears and we find ourselves almost watching the final part of a detective movie as the mystery surrounding this family begins to come out.
Koreeda does such a good job of hiding things from you that it comes as a shock when you learn what’s actually going on. You don’t feel cheated or upset, just heartbroken and more than a little conflicted about what’s right and what’s wrong.
Shoplifters is a magnificent drama and thoroughly deserves the awards it has been winning and, fingers crossed, the big one it will get in 2019.