Content Note: child abuse
The Shibata family – mother Nobuyo (Ando Sakura), father Osamu (Franky Lily), son Shota (Jyo Kairi), daughter Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) and grandmother Hatsue (Kirin Kiki) all live in Hatsue’s small apartment, barely scraping by with odd jobs and Hatsue’s pension. They still have to supplement their income by shoplifting – which they have mastered into an art. One night, they find a little girl on the street, going through garbage, looking for food. They take her home and give her food – and then push off calling the police more and more. But their precarious position is at risk.
Shoplifters is a strong film, albeit a little too long (as Japanese films so often are for me). It certainly took me places I really didn’t expect – and did so in a very sensitive and frighteningly realistic way.
When Shoplifters start, you think you know where things are headed, but the film takes quite a few turns that I did not see coming and that I enjoyed a lot, adding layers to a story that is all about choosing your family – but not at any cost. Some choices shouldn’t be made.
It treats its characters with a lot of sensitivity for their situation and always with an eye on the relationships between them – that are just as complex as you’d expect in a family under these difficult circumstances. And then some.
As I said before, it did go a tad too slow for my taste. That is a complaint I often have about Japanese movies, so your mileage may vary. But I was hoping for a bit of a faster pace.
Despite that complaint, I thought Shoplifters was a very strong film, although I didn’t fall completely in love with it. Maybe I just saw it on the wrong day, and on another day I would have loved it. Be that as it may, I can say that I enjoyed it a lot.