SHOPLIFTERS – Review by Marietta Steinhart

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year, claimed the FIPRESCI Prize for Best Foreign Language Film at the 30th Palm Springs International Film Festival, and was nominated for a best foreign-language film Oscar.

It is a tender, strangely powerful and sad exploration of what makes a real family and implies that we often find true compassion among the strangers we encounter in the world. Japanese Actress Sakura Ando is entirely deserving of every Award under the sun.

The impoverished Shibatas live in Tokyo, in a dingy little nest, and oddly enough, the first thing we see is a father, Osamu (Lily Franky), who encourages his 12-year-old son, Shota (Jyo Kairi), to artfully steal some things from a grocery store. “If it’s in a shop, it doesn’t belong to anyone,” Osamu explains. On the way home, they find a little girl named Yuri (Miyu Sasaki) starving and shivering. Fearing for her well-being in the cold, Osamu and Shota steal her, too, even though they don’t really have room for her, or the means to feed another mouth. They take her home where mother Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), grandmother Hatsue (the late Kirin Kiki) and a teenage girl named Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) live together like sardines in a tin.

The Shibatas’ resources are tight, they are a family of con artists, but because the girl has obviously been physically abused, they decide to unofficially adopt her. The subject of it potentially being a kidnapping comes up, but Osamu is fairly certain it can’t be kidnapping if they haven’t asked for a ransom. Right?

Taking little Yuri in, however, leads to a series of events that puts the family at risk as their world begins to crumble – and Kore-eda slowly reveals that not everything is as it seems. By the end of the film, we are starting to wonder: What makes a family a family?

This question lies at the heart of Shoplifters, a theme that runs in one way or another through this auteur’s work like a red thread: through Nobody Knows (2004; perhaps his most popular film to date), through I Wish (2011), Like Father, Like Son (2013), and After the Storm (2016).

In between dreary dwellings, this narrow, crammed house of petty criminals, is the only glimpse of hope. There is really no beauty in poverty, and Kore-eda knows this, but he wants you to know something else: there can be comfort, love and laughter in misery.

At Cannes, Cate Blanchett talked about how impressed she was with Sakura Ando’s performance, and rightly so: Sakura Ando gives a quietly brilliant performance as Nobuyo. “If they say they hit you because they love you, that is a lie,” she tells Yuri, and then adds, “If they love you, this is what they do.” She gives the girl a hug, and Kore-eda makes it clear that being a mother has little to do with blood ties. “Maybe it’s stronger when you choose them yourself,” Nobuyo wonders.

ABOUT MARIETTA STEINHART: Born and raised in Vienna, Marietta Steinhart is a New York City based film critic, contributing to Zeit Online, among other media, covering US cinema and TV. She’s an esteemed member of The International Federation of Film Critics and a frequent juror in Film Festivals.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 0 Flares ×
explore: | | | |