Shoplifters: The family you choose, and the ones you don’t


Shoplifters: The family you choose, and the ones you don’t

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest film

Kevin Martinez

25 February 2019

Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest film, Shoplifters, tells the story of a family that relies on shoplifting and other schemes to maintain its impoverished standard of living.

At a time in contemporary filmmaking when the lives of the oppressed are either ignored or treated as merely appalling and a subject for “sympathy,” Kore-eda (Maborosi, After Life, Nobody Knows, The Third Murder) has made a work where the marginalized are also capable of wit and humor. Without beautifying the social conditions, Shoplifters is sincere and at times caustic in its depiction of modern-day Tokyo.

The family in Shopliftersis an unusual one. Their relations are not principally biological. Osamu (Lily Franky), the “father,” is a day laborer. Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), the “mother,” works at an industrial laundromat. Together they survive by stealing goods, using a system of hand signals. Osamu explains that taking items that have not yet been sold is all right because they don’t belong to anyone.

Lily Franky and Kairi Jo in Shoplifters

Shota (Kairi Jo), a boy, uses his youth to help thieve and contribute to the family income. Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) works in a sex club performing in front of a two-way mirror. Hatsue (Kirin Kiki, who died in September 2018), an older woman, illegally collects a pension for her dead husband, one of the chief sources of income for the family.

The five live in a small and cramped, flimsily constructed house cluttered with their personal effects and beds. All in all, life looks pretty awful in 21st century Japanese capitalism.

One night, Osamu and Nobuyo find an abandoned little girl, Yuri (Miyu Sasaki), with…

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