Hirokazu Kore-ed’s (his masterpiece AFTER LIFE and last year’s THE THIRD MURDER) latest film, SHOPLIFTERS won him the Palme D’Or at Cannes this year and is a real gem of a movie. It tells the story of a poor family barely etching out a decent living in the outskirts of Tokyo. The family is comprised of a couple, a grandmother and children. The beauty of the movie is the twist in the story, that if revealed would definitely destroy the movie’s purpose.
The film’s Japanese title MANBIKI KAZOKU literally translates to ‘shoplifting family’. Indeed so. This is not Kore-da’s first family themed film, after making AFTER THE STORM, LIKE FATHER LIKE SON and NOBODY KNOWS. The patriarch, Osamu Shibata (Lily Franky) and his young boy, Shota (Jyo Kairi) complete a shoplifting spree at the residential grocery store before treating him to delicious croquettes. They hear the cries of a hungry 4-year old who they bring back home (or kidnap) to feed her and later not return her to her family after discovering scars all over her body. Shota and the young girl, Yuri bond. Kore-eda’s film is kept interesting from the various characters of the family that also includes the grandmother (Kiki Kilin), Shota’s wife, Nobuyo (Ando Sakura) and her sister who works in a strip club.
The message that this make-shift dishonest family has more love than the typical Japanese family is obvious and drummed into the audience at the end of the film, in case the audience did not get it. But thankfully, Kore’eda’s message is all not all black and white. He also looks at the limitations of homeschooling as Shota is taught shoplifting and does not attend school. “I thought kids who cannot study go to school,” Shota questions a detective at one point in the film. The detective’s answer is: “Some things you cannot teach at home – meeting people.”
One of the film’s most interesting segments has the family go to the beach together. How they interact with each other makes good observation.
The audience might wonder why did it took so long for Yuri’s mother to search and claim her back. The audience overhears an argument between mother and father that they did not want her and that she was a nuisance.
The film contains two twists that occur after the son, Shota is injured while jumping off a highway overpass in order to escape being caught from shoplifting. This he does to save his little sister from getting caught. What is revealed is both unexpected that teaches the audience both of that family and what an ideal family should be.
Kore-ed’s actors need not act – his camera does. From, close-ups, long hots, a character’s glance, the turn of a face, Kore-ed knows exactly how to capture a moment or create an effect. The result is a superior movie from a clear Master of a medium who is not only a great story-teller (telling a story with a clear timely message) but a superb filmmaker.