Starring Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Mayu Matsuoka, Kirin Kiki, Jyo Kairi, Miyu Sasaki, Naoto Ogata
Curious. Interesting. Muddled.
Acclaimed worldwide at its release, I was at a loss as to what to make of Shoplifters. It follows a ragtag, thrust together family of misfits living in poverty in modern-day Tokyo, collectively known as the Shibatas. None of them are actual family, apparently. The “dad,” Osamu, relies heavily on shoplifting and passes the dubious skill on to his adopted children, Shota and Yuri. The “grandmother”, Hatsue, collects payments from her ex-husband’s family. The “mom” works a menial factory job, and the “aunt” works as a performer at a hostess club. The idea of a makeshift family living together under one roof, shoplifting, to my Hollywood-influenced mind lends itself to the sentimental, family-friendly genre so well. The charming miscreants go through ups and downs but find that they all love each other in the end. That’s not what this is. Shoplifters looks to be more of a social drama, going for realism, I suppose, but I think that’s my biggest problem with it. I don’t know Japanese culture well enough to say anything with authority but I didn’t buy these faces as the look of abject poverty. They are a beautiful family with some dirt rubbed on them occasionally. It’s also a pretty shallow portrait of what it means to be a family. Shoplifters is a group of people using each other. That doesn’t take away from the acting, which is strong, or the storytelling but by the end, it didn’t add up to much for me.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-