Out this week in cinemas is Shoplifters. A touching yet emotionally brutal look at family and the unconventional ones that exist in our world today.
One night after shoplifting from a store Osamu (Lily Franky) and his son Shota (Kairi Jō) are on their way home when they happen across a young girl (Miyu Sasaki). She seems to be mistreated with several scars along her arms. Worrying she may be in danger Shibata takes her with them back to their home.
She almost immediately endears herself to the rest of the family, mother Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), Aki (Mayu Matsuoka), and her grandmother Hatsue (Kirin Kiki). From there she is adopted, after a fashion, by the family. After several weeks it is revealed that Osamu may have accidentally kidnapped her as they see her on the news being sought after by the police.
Nobuyo having fallen in love with young Yuri decides the best decision for the child is to keep her with them. They cut her hair, give her a new name and Shota even teaches her to shoplift as a way to bond with her. It’s quite clear that Yuri also loves her new “family” as she takes to them like a fish to water.
All that I have told you about Shoplifters is the surface level plot because what is beneath it all is something beautiful, thought-provoking, and most of all emotional.
From the sun-kissed streets to the neon lights of the clubs Shoplifters is stunning. The film goes the full gambit of giving audiences something wonderfully touching and yet every now and then there are glimpses of the darker corners of the world. It’s quite jarring when the film reveals its true self in the act and when it all comes crashing down much like the family you’ll be left in pieces.
It’s a testament to the director Hirokazu Kore-eda. He has woven a phenomenally human story. The characters and their lives are born of an all too real issue we face in the modern day world, a sense of lethargy. Omasu is constantly trying to get out of work, using the shoplifting as a way to keep himself from something he sees as a nuisance. Nobuyo is the inverse trying hard to bring home the bacon, unfortunately, the company she works for is trying to get as much work as the little workforce they are paying. Even Yuri is from a family who are incapable of being parents due to their lack of enthusiasm.
There are moments of emotional highs and the film is great at showing off the bonds between these characters. Shoplifters also shows that family doesn’t come from blood alone but from an understanding and kinship that is earned instead of simply being bestowed on someone immediately from birth.
Easily the highlight of Shoplifters is the cast. Everyone gets their moment to shine. A particular highlight is between Nobuyo and Yuri where Nobuyo burns the clothes of Yuri after giving her new ones. This moment symbolises the rebirth of Yuri and the understanding from Nobuyo that as long as Yuri is with her she will never be harmed again. It’s a beautiful moment that has no dialogue and is simply breathtaking.
Shoplifters is a wonderfully poignant look at the state of the family dynamic and is filled with award-worthy performances bolstered by a heartbreaking narrative. This is a must see.