Dir: Hirokazu Koreeda
Staring: Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Sôsuke Ikematsu, Sakura Andô, Yôko Moriguchi, Moemi Katayama, Moei Katayama & Jyo Kairi.
122mins | Drama, World Cinema | 15
Any film to win the Palme d’Or usually get a lot of heads turning. This time it was Shoplifters, a Japanese film, featuring director Hirokazu Koreeda. This is an intriguing film, which has a lot to say about the family unit and what can pass as one in today’s world.
Meet the Shibatas. Or at least we think they are the Shibatas. This motley crew of shoplifters who live in the same run down house and try to pass as a functioning family. The opening scene portrays with great beauty how they do their stealing, a series of hand gestures and touches from one another to prep the grabbing of items. We see this happen throughout the film and it’s inevitable that they get caught sooner or later. It is the children who do most of the stealing, as they are much more nimble and can get by unnoticed.
This family are an extraordinary group of people who have somehow found each other and they almost seem to get by with part-time jobs and theft. What puts a spanner in the works is a young girl they encounter who has been left outside. They take her home and she becomes part of their world of theft and food. They are faced with a dilemma: should they give her back to an abusive house or look after her and give her as much love as they all can? The gang seem to have the best of intensions at heart, though there is some darkness.
The questionable actions of this arise in the final third of the film. After the nana character has died (the often brilliant Kilin Kiki), she has to be buried under the floorboards in an outrageous moment that could have easily come from a serial killer film. The father figure making the choice to ditch the boy (who broke his leg whilst grifting) speaks volumes about what they really care about in life. All the family leave him, as the police arrive at their place. This young boy’s choice to get caught to upset things, so that he could have the possibility in knowing who his real family are, speaks volumes.
Family can never be what you want, unless you find your own family to make. Here in Shoplifters, we see the gritty side of a working class Japanese people who are finding away to live, a remarkable thrifty way to get by, but with dangers and pitfalls. It’s a life that borders on the brutal, but some real human moments (take the beach scene or the male encounter with the sex worker daughter) that make the film glow.
This would not be to everyones taste. It has the feel of acclaimed director Ozu, the family life of everyday Japan and the camera sinking to the floor, in moments that border on the documentary style. You may not find a happy ending here (the performances come into their own in the interrogation scenes), though you might just come across a cinematic experience that is heartfelt, funny and thoughtful.
The ending is also as devastating as it is abrupt.
Shoplifters is now in cinemas, in a limited release.
Photo Source: The Wall Street Journal