Reviews - Shoplifters
Reviewed By Stephen Pye
This notion of the "normal" family is completely subverted in Kore-eda's brilliant new film. We are drawn in to the life of a family living in cramped conditions in a poor part of Tokyo. The family barely subsist and part of their income is derived from shoplifting. Japan prides itself on being a very safe society when it comes to the safety of people's possessions, so this film, which is a box-office hit there, must be profoundly shocking. The film though is deeply tender and affecting and exhibits one of Kore-eda's greatest talents, the direction of children. The two central characters are both children under the age of ten (Sasaki and Jyo) and their performances are beautifully poised and naturalistic, and in the end quite heart-breaking.
No spoiler then, but the family here is not what it seems at all, and in the films dramatic denouement all is revealed; and yet deep, abiding and unsentimental love remain the hallmark. The film challenges us then in terms of how we perceive the family unit. Mostly families are fissiparous to some degree; and in our increasingly atomised society, we would do well to identify how our understanding of family interacts with society as a whole. 'Shoplifters' does this, and, unlike our human institutions, is flawless.
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