Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Starring: Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Mayu Matsuoka, Jyo Kairi, Miyu Sasaki

Words – Joe H.

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Shoplifters is an exploration of relationships from director Hirokazu Kore-eda; known for exploring themes of family and belonging in a career spanning more than two decades and over a dozen feature films, including the acclaimed After Life, Nobody Knows and Our Little Sister.

Shoplifters centres around a three-generation family who together do just about enough to get by, working low-paid jobs and carrying out a well-practiced shoplifting routine which brings food to the table. They rely on shoplifting to make ends meet as they cope with a life of poverty on the fringes of society, at no point however does their struggle seem to dampen their attitude, there’s warmth and an upbeat approach to life even in these bleak circumstances. They all live together in a house big enough for no more than two people, but they share space and everything they have, never feeling the presence of another is an inconvenience.

After one of their shoplifting sessions, they come across and open their doors to a little girl who seemingly has no one to care for her – at first reluctant to shelter the girl, they agree to take care of her after learning of the hardships she faces. The family dynamic shifts but they all live happily together, until an unforeseen event upsets the delicate balance they have created.
It is slowly revealed that not all the individuals in this family are related, but their relationships with each other prove to be something just as strong (if not more so) as that of a traditional family unit – their relationships have been forged through hardship and shared experiences, all that matters is that they are together.
Gradually, we discover the circumstances that brought them to where they are, we learn about each of them, becoming more involved in their lives – we see each of their flaws and learn of their past, each has a story that shaped them, but it’s hard to imagine a more caring family.
It builds to a defining moment where one decision completely reshapes their lives, resulting in a test of their relationships nobody could prepare for.

The naturalistic interactions of the cast makes for some genuine characters who we become evermore attached to the more time we spend with them, and there are some particularly impressive mature performances from the child actors. By the end you find yourself emotionally invested in all of them – their mistakes, while foolhardy are understandable, as life is never simple.
Shoplifters is an understated but powerful exploration into the meaning of family, what it means to care for another, and a true meaning of a relationship. A stunningly moving film.