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Film Review: Shoplifters (2018)

Updated: Oct 7, 2023

Kelaru & Fulton rating: ★★★★★

Available on Prime Video | Runtime: 2hrs 1 min


This gem from acclaimed Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda, is a deeply moving and humane film that offers a window into a makeshift family scraping by at the margins of modern Japanese society. The Palme d’Or winner explores the meaning of family, showing that it’s the unbreakable bonds between people - not blood relations - that define it.

At the heart of the film is the Shibata family - comprised of father Osamu (Lily Franky), mother Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), grandmother Hatsue (Kirin Kiki), son Shota (Jyo Kairi), and daughter Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) - who subsist by shoplifting from local stores. Their routine existence is upended when they take in a neglected young girl named Yuri (Miyu Sasaki) after discovering her alone in the freezing cold. What seems like an act of compassion soon reveals itself to be a criminal act of kidnapping.

Yet, as we spend time with this loving but destitute family, it becomes clear that legal definitions matter little when it comes to human relationships. Koreeda lingers on tender moments of familial intimacy - preparing meals, bathing together, caring for each other when sick - that reveal unbreakable bonds. Blood relatives or not, the Shibatas are a family.

Anchored by naturalistic performances, Shoplifters finds humour and joy even in difficult circumstances. Young Jyo Kairi is particularly excellent as the mischievous Shota, who delights in showing his new “sister” Yuri the ropes of petty theft.

Though slow-paced at times, the film builds steadily to a heartrending and surprising climax. Like a good short story, it expands meaningfully in the mind after viewing. Shoplifters is a must-see that captures so much about family and human dignity in just 121 minutes. With his sensitive direction, Koreeda reminds us that families come in all forms, and that love shared makes a family.



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