An award-winner that may challenge some viewers more than others.


Given that Koreeda Hirokazu's Shoplifters follows on from his crime drama The Third Murder, it might be assumed that the Japanese filmmaker once noted for his studies of family life has chosen to break away into fresh fields entirely. But this time the title, while by no means irrelevant, is attached to a tale by Koreeda himself that proves in the event to be all about family. Indeed, in a very individual way, Shoplifters can be seen as a work that encourages detailed thought about nature and nurture and the role that they play as children grow up.


At the start, we see how Osamu (Lily Franky) goes shoplifting and appears to be quite ready to involve his son Shota (Jyo Kairi) in this activity. And yet, not unlike the drug dealer in the 2017 Oscar winner Moonlight, Osamu comes across as a man whose behaviour does not prevent us from recognising him as being a caring individual. Quite soon we witness him at home where three generations live together and this family group is now augmented by a young girl, Juri (Sasaki Miyu), a child ill-treated by her mother. Not everybody welcomes her given that the household already includes Osamu's partner, Nobuyo (Ando Sakura), a grandmother figure (Kiki Kilin) and a teenager, Sayaka (Matsuoka May) and given too that the shoplifting activities are part and parcel of a desperate bid to survive on a very limited income. In addition, however well intentioned, taking Juri away from her mother could be seen despite her gratitude as an act of kidnapping.


Koreeda carried off the Palme d'Or at Cannes with this film and the casting is admirable, enabling us to believe fully in all of the characters. Shoplifters is also a work that largely steers clear of sentimentality but I related to it much less than I had hoped to do. If I had a few doubts about the music score, that hardly matters since it is featured only occasionally. On the other hand, Koreeda's decision to reveal the truth about this family only gradually did leave me struggling to take aboard the rather obscure hints relevant to working out all the relationships (it doesn't help that one character is referred to by two different names). The second half contains far more drama without ever losing its way by turning into melodrama, but the effort required to keep up with the narrative prevented me from experiencing the emotional response to the story which Koreeda surely intended. Shoplifters is certainly a film worth investigating and it may well be that many will find it easier than I did to latch on to the situation that is central to it and thus escape from a distraction that unfortunately kept me at a distance.




Cast: Lily Franky, Ando Sakura, Matsuoka Mayu, Jyo Kairi, Sasaki Miyu, Kiki Kilin.


Dir Koreeda Hirokazu, Pro Matsuzaki Kaoru, Yose Akihiko and Taguchi Hijiri, Screenplay Koreeda Hirokazu, Ph Kondo Ryuto, Pro Des Mitsumatsu Keiko, Ed Koreeda Hirokazu, Music Hosono Haruomi, Stylist Kurosawa Kazuko.


AOI Pro Inc./Fuji Television Network Inc./Gaga Corporation-Thunderbird Releasing.
121 mins. Japan. 2018. Rel: 23 November 2018. Cert. 15.