Shoplifters ★★★½

Winner of Palme d'Or at 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Shoplifters is a rich, delicate & bittersweet drama that's crafted with genuine care, told with heartfelt tenderness, and ruminates on what constitutes a family through a humanistic eye that doesn't judge any of its characters & their deeds.

Shoplifters concerns a group of people living together who rely on shoplifting to cope with their life of poverty. Despite barely making enough to survive, they live seemingly happy lives but the bonds that unite them is put to the test when an unforeseen incident occurs and hidden secrets are revealed.

Written & directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, Shoplifters features a fascinating set of characters — each interesting in their own individual ways and exhibiting sufficient depth in their respective arcs — and through the little threads that connect them, he creates this semblance of a family living together under one roof.

Kore-eda's direction is calm & composed as he allows the plot to unravel at an unhurried pace, plus the silent camerawork doesn't get in the way of the drama unfolding on screen. The first half takes us through their daily life & shoplifting sessions in a heartwarming fashion, only for the director to uproot it all later to examine what makes a family family.

While the deftly scripted characters & their dynamic with one another manage to retain a sense of intrigue throughout, the narrative is bogged down by few stretches of slow patches as there are moments in the final print that end up overstaying their welcome. Performances are top-notch from the entire cast, including the children who are outstanding in their given roles.

On an overall scale, Shoplifters is a touching, affecting & emotionally captivating observation of family love that chooses to focus on the brighter side rather than dwelling on its characters' hardships. Powered by poignant performances elicited under Kore-eda's controlled direction, the film may seem aimless to some but its endearing portrait of ties that can grow between unrelated people resonates for far longer than its 2 hours runtime.

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