Hirokazu Kore-eda isa director who has infused his work with stirring humanity. Dramas such as Like Father Like Son and After the Storm have focused on emotive journeys that capture intricate relationships and palpable dynamics. The celebrated filmmaker also captures the heart of Japan and strives to look at how the country’s society can impact, change, and evolve a person.
His latest venture, Shoplifters, ticks all these boxes. The Palme D’Or winning movie has established the director as one of the worlds’ most intimate and delicate filmmakers. Shoplifters revolves around Osamu, a shifty man with a somewhat heart of gold. He is the head of an unusual household; a ragtag family (husband, wife, daughter, and son,) who pull together in order to grift and steal for survival. The group dodge taxes and flee rent from their landlord. When Osamu comes across the young Yuri, he takes her under his wing and teaches her about their own particular brand of survival.
The lines of morality are blurred in Kore-ade’s affecting piece. Osamu and his loveable rogues are not there for you to pass judgement on. Instead Kore-ade asks you to understand. Similarly to how Ken Loach disassembled the systematic abuses that would keep a hard-working family in the grasps of poverty, there are echoes of this in Shoplifters. This family are cast to the outskirts of society for whatever reason and spend their lives in a never-ending struggle.
The question on whether it is acceptable for Osamu to indoctrinate Yuri into his pseudo-criminal world, similar to the way Fagin convinced Oliver that he had to “pick a pocket or two” to survive, hangs over the whole film. It may seem black and white on paper but Yuri was found wondering the streets of Tokyo, alone with visible signs of abuse. Osamu takes her into his world without question and shows her love, branding her as family instantly. It’s this unexpected warmth that Osamu has that makes you question the notion of true morality in petty thieves and criminals. Other characters in the film may wag their fingers, be you are disinclined to.
As expected, these notions are layered in the phenomenal acting as Lily Franky (who also starred on Kore-ade’s Like Father Like Son.) Franky captures this wistful man living this life the best he knows. The film also boasts one of the last performances from the great Kirin Kiki as “grandmother” Hatsue Shibata. The family dynamics are fantastically realised.
Regardless of what opinion you have Osamu and his crew, Kore-ade’s impressive feature is about the abundance of spirit that can come with extreme destitution.Find your cinema and book tickets