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Directed By: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Cast: Lily Franky, Kairi Jō, Ando Sakura, Kirin Kiki
What is family? A group of people related by blood or officially certified? Can a group of dysfunctional people living together having no blood relation but bonded by love and affection be called a family? Shoplifters is about one such family and through their story director asks these questions to its viewers. This is a socially conscious movie which evaluates the complexities of a family and its place in our complex society.
Shoplifters begins with the title defining opening scene, Osamu (Lily Franky) and Shota (Kairi Jō) are shoplifting from a store. Osamu justifies it saying that as the items in the store don’t belong to anyone it is not stealing- it is fine till it isn’t someone’s property. They steal food and soap, items of necessity rather than luxury. On their way home that night they see an abandoned girl Juri (Miyu Sasaki) and end up taking her home. At home they have three more hungry mouths to feed. The family resides in a home owned by the grandmother Hatsue (Kirin Kiki), who also supports the family with her deceased husband’s pension. Nobuyo (Ando Sakura), partner of Osamu, works in a laundry and Aki (Matsuoka Mayu) the daughter does sex shows.
The family is dysfunctional as per the societal norms as none of them are related by blood. Osamu and Shota steal to make ends meet, grandmother encourages Aki in her job. Nobuyo and Osamu go to return Juri but seeing her parents fight viciously without making any real attempts to find her, take her back. Nobuyo fears for Juri like a mother, holding her close and giving an excuse for the kidnapping saying its not kidnapping if they don’t ask for ransom.
It is rationale like these which divide opinions and leave stuff open for debate. Osamu and Nobuyo feed them, care for them and give them love. Yet, they are not classified as family. They take better care of Juri than her parents but she still wont be their daughter. Shoplifters showcases the beautiful relationship they share. There is loyalty, trust, concern and love, typical ingredients to make a happy family. Suddenly everything goes wrong when Shoto gets arrested for shoplifting.
Everything after that is a question posed by Shoplifters to the society. What is family and is familial love related to blood? Does giving birth automatically make one mother? If Child Services have the authority to take kids when they discover parent’s abusive nature then what Nuboyo and Osamu did is nothing different. The movie is told gently yet is hard hitting.
Nobuyo is the star of the movie, the center of the family. She loves the kids, gives advice to Osamu, gives up her job to keep the family secret and of course the final sacrifice. She exemplifies the women of the family and their ultimate dedication and sacrifice for their families. Her performance in her final act is of guilt yet happiness and all the contradicting emotion is simple outstanding. Osamu, many a time looks like an overgrown kid. But he is a typical dad who loves his kids but unable to show it explicitly.
I liked Shota too, trying to hog all the love of his parents. His jealousy when all the attention was given to Juri is typical of a elder sibling. Kirin Kiki as grandma in her last role before her death is convincing as a lonely, aged lady finding the care and respect she deserves from these strangers, this family that she has chosen and not from the actual one who abandoned her. Her relationship with Aki is of fondness. I was stunned when she asked Aki about sex but then the family is weird. Aki is also good in her role as a sex doll needing a companion.
The end is heartbreaking because the best of the lot has to make sacrifices. After repeated requests by Osamu to call him dad finally Shota understands and accepts him but Osamu is not there to hear him say it. Shoplifters is a slice-of-life movie and hence there are no hard-hitting punch lines; but there are breadcrumbs. And the beauty of the movie is not about finding the breadcrumbs but in realizing what they are. The parting shot of Shota looking out of the window and that of Juri is truly heartbreaking. Society with the intention of providing a good life as per norms and rules had actually taken all the happiness from them. Watch this beauty and please share your rating above.
Netflix Link: Shoplifters
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