Renowned Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda continues his spirit of Yasujiro Ozu that he has done so often with his impressive filmography that includes “Like Father, Like Son”, “Nobody Knows”, and “Still Walking” have all been poignant and complex studies centered around families. His latest film, “Shoplifters”, which took top honors, the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival is certainly a film with a message like so many other films in 2018, however the emotions seem earned and everything rings true and genuine.
“Shoplifters” introduces us to a struggling family living in a confined space in a bungalow, as they scape by the best that they can. The film draws you in immediately when we see an older man named Osamu Shibita (Lily Frankly) taking his young son out shoplifting in a crowded grocery store. On their way home, they discover a young little girl who appears to be left negleted, abused, and she is starving for food. They end up taking her home to feed her, only to return the young girl back to see her parents fighting with each other and then they decide to take her in.
Also living in the bungalow is Osamu’s younger wife Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), their teen daughter Aki (Mayu Matsuoka), and their grandma (Kirin Kiki), who collects some kind fraudalant pension. This family while poor are not homeless. They all have jobs, Osamu is injured on a construction site and is denied worker’s comp, Nobuyo works in a sewing shop, and Aki actually works as a stripper however their income still isn’t enough to pay for the necessities. The shoplifting helps bring food on the table.
They end up renaming the young girl “Rin” as her disappearance is reported in the local tv news, as the family ends up changing “Rins” appearance” as they assure young Rin that they will never abuse or neglect her. In fact Rin truly appreciates the love and care she endures from the family.
Kore-eda builds up rich pathos and nuanced layers between the families relationship over the course of many months as we see the seasons change.
Like a Dardennes film, Kore-eda studies a situation that would appear to be sinister or appalling on the outside only for it to unravel with great empathy and compassion that allows you to become deeply involved with the stories trials and tribulations.
“Shoplifters” is a dazzling surprise. It’s one of the most humane visions of human poverty we’ve seen since Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project”. Kore-eda beautifully captures the way a handful of people deal with family complications and class struggle, and what truly defines a family as it explores bond, compassion, and care.