Release Date: November 23, 2018
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
MPAA Rating: R
Run Time: 121 Minutes
On a chilly February evening, a man named Osamu is walking home with his son, Shoto, after a successful day of shoplifting when they happen upon a little girl sitting out in the cold with seemingly no place to go. They take her in, give her some delicious gluten balls and introduce her to their family, a ragtag bunch of criminals hustling every which way to make ends meet.
The next day, when returning the child, it becomes apparent that she comes from a place of abuse and neglect, and Osamu’s wife, Nobuyo, makes the decision to keep her, despite the family barely being able to feed themselves, let alone another kid.
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest foray into socially conscious drama, Shoplifters, is a quiet exploration of a family living in poverty, but refusing to let their financial woes inhibit their love for one another.
Crammed into their cozy hovel is the aforementioned Osamu, Shoto and Nobuyo, along with younger sister Aki and the grandmother, whose monthly pension check is their main source of income. Both Osamu and Nobuyo work manual-labor jobs, but after Osamu is injured at work and Nobuyo gets fired, the family is put in even more dire straits, putting more emphasis on their pastime of stealing.
They quickly begin teaching the little girl, Juri, now known as Rin, the family trade, and she begins aiding them in their pilfering efforts, seamlessly forming a bond with them as they disperse their care and love to her, something she was in desperate need of. They refer to as their daughter, clean her up, cut her hair, swipe her a new wardrobe, take her to the beach, and give her the emotional support she needs.
Kore-eda crafts a charming, bittersweet tale of a family’s perseverance through tough times with their strong bond to one another, reinforced by their strong personalities and natural dialogue. Often funny, the coy, low-key banter between the family members, constantly slinging barbs at one another makes us truly believe this is a real family and, thus, strengthens our own bond with them.
Just when we settle into this wonderful family dynamic, Kore-eda pulls the rug out from under, and darker truths bubble to the surface, adding dimension to the story, evolving it from a light, low-key affair to a truly great piece of filmmaking worthy of the accolades it’s sure to receive.
At its core, Shoplifters explores the harrowing journey of a family that is brought together by a system that has collectively failed them, but it’s their love for one another that makes this a truly special cinematic experience.