Director-writer Hirokazu Kore-eda transports audiences to a non-judgmental place in this tale of crime, family and love.
"Shoplifters" is a bittersweet story of a Japanese family who puts love above honor. It's an unconventional look at social mores taken from different perspectives and what constitutes happiness during difficult financial times.
In an unspecified Tokyo slum, the Shibata family breaks tradition to make ends meet. They shoplift. Patriarch, Osamu (Lily Franky), teaches his children the art of the steal, which provides their family with the basics in life. His wife, Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), works but keeps losing precious hours due to cutbacks. And older daughter, Aki (Mayu Matsuoka), has a job in the soft porn industry.
One night Osamu and Nobuyo find a seemingly abandon child named Juri (Miyu Sasaki) who obviously has been physically abused. They take her home for dinner. Nobuyo insists that Juri should remain with them, citing that it's not a kidnapping if you don't demand a ransom. The entire family, including Grandma (Kirin Kiki), agree. In their disheveled and cramped apartment, Juri experiences the love and affection she has never known before. She also takes to shoplifting like a pro.
But when brother, Shota (Jyo Kairi), is apprehended while stealing, the authorities get involved and the Shibata family is, literally, torn apart. Secrets and lies are revealed which they've been harboring for years. Why doesn't Shota call Osamu "dad?" Why aren't the children in school? And what has happened to their missing grandmother?
Director-writer Hirokazu Kore-eda (who won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year) manages to take his audience into a non-judgemental place when it comes to the crimes committed by the Shibatas. By emphasizing the importance of their unbridled love for one another playing down their criminal acts, we learn to love this kind and generous family. His film isn't laden with snazzy camerawork or catchy scoring because it need not be. Instead, he relies upon his amazing cast to simplistically convey his beautiful message.
"Shoplifters" is a social commentary on what a broken economic system can force individuals to do when in dire straits. Kore-eda questions, "What makes a family?" And observes that people belong to those who love them most.
"Shoplifters" was screened at this year's Sarasota Film Society's Cine-World Film Festival which presents the best in new foreign and independent cinema. It opens nationwide on November 23.