STARRING: Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Mayu Matsuoka, Sosuke Ikematsu, Kairi Jō, Miyu Sasaki, Kirin Kiki, Naoto Ogata, Yoko Moriguchi, Yūki Yamada, Moemi Katayama, Kengo Kora, Chizuru Ikewaki and Akira Emoto
A family of small-time crooks take in a child they find on the street.
A Japanese couple stuck with part-time jobs and live in poverty that in order to make ends meet they, from time to time, do some shoplifting. When the man and his son are coming back from their shoplifting routine they come across a young girl outside in the freezing cold and decide to shelter the girl.
Shoplifters (aka Manbiki kazoku) is a Japanese film from writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda. The film focuses on a couple, Osamu Shibata and his wife Nobuyo, who work part-time jobs but live in poverty. They largely rely on the grandmother’s pension and on occasion in order to get the essentials for the household, Osamu and his son Shota shoplift. One evening, the pair come across a young girl named Yuri, all alone in the freezing cold outside and they take her home. When they discover evidence of abuse, they decide to informally adopt her, despite their lack of finances.
Shoplifters is a family drama unlike any I’ve seen in quite a while, showing us the scepticism of taking in young Yuri and how they inevitably embrace her, particularly Nobuyo and Shota. With the husband and wife sharing living space with the wife’s younger sister Aki, their son and also their grandmother, whose house it is. The space is confided, clustered with toys to duvets and even toe/finger nails, and they make do with each others company and the family dynamic feels authentic, even through its complexities. The way this story plays out is very well executed, as once they take Yuri in, it’s handled with the expectancy for it to all go wrong as the grandmother points out during probably the happiest sequence in the film ‘It won’t last for long’. The direction and script from Koreeda is great, as is the cinematography from Ryûto Kondô. The performances from the ensemble are great. Lily Franky is great as a shifty character with a cheeky grin, who teaches Shota that shoplifting is fine as it’s items that don’t belong to anyone yet. Sakura Ando is great as Nobuyo, whose closed off from Yuri at first but once she accepts her, we witness the vulnerability that she brings in the performance. Kirin Kiki is a scene stealer at times as grandmother Hatsue and it’s a shame that this would be her final performance as she passed away a few months ago. The children stars, Kairi Jō and Miyu Sasaki, are excellent here as Shota and Yuri.
It says a lot about the films two hour runtime that, for a change, I would’ve liked a few more minutes with the family. The final act however could be effective for those attached to the characters and leave others cold in its conclusion.
Koreeda focuses on the dynamic of family, the theme of choosing your family and it’s definitely a film that feels authentic, the characters have a genuine bond and the performances amongst the ensemble are great, especially the young actors. 8/10