Shoplifters ★★★★

Added to: Hirokazu Kore-Eda Ranked & 2018 Ranked

The beauty of Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s latest film Shoplifters is that right from the start it shows its quaint cast of characters as what they really are to each other, a family like no other. Between the six of them there’s more genuine love for each other than there is in most “real" families. No, this little group isn’t a family in the traditional sense, they have been brought together by fate, each of them coming from a different, desolate place in the dense city of Tokyo. All of them carry scars from their past, some quite literal, some like ghosts that haunt in the back of their mind, but all as real as anything in their life. And their lives are more than real. They are the kind of people who stare the pains of reality in the eye 24/7, yet for all the hardship they have to go through, working multiple jobs and most notably stealing food and other stuff, they always keep good faith. In their happiest moments they are jumping around in the sea as if there’s nothing to worry about and they cherish the intimate joys that their minuscule ramshackle house gives them. Alas, the pleasant nature of this do-it-yourself family doesn’t last for very long, when a new addition to the family, a small girl locked outside by her violent parents, comes to live with them. While the first few months go by relatively uneventful and the little girl adapts to life with her new, golden-hearted family, problems soon rear their ugly head. From the moment she is officially reported missing, we start to diver deeper into what makes this family hold on together. Each character has his or her own mystery to bring to light and slowly but surely we may start to wonder what it exactly is that makes a family like this. Do they go on together for the love, for the money, for survival together because alone it won’t ever work? All such questions arise as the different bonds between them get dissected and Kore-Eda plunges us all the further into misery. This film may not pull the tears from your eyes but it will certainly make your heart beat a little faster. What we may take for granted so often in our own homes, with our own parents, was never so easy for these people. Only through seeing the necessity of each of them for being together and working together, can we understand how lucky we are to have a place to call our own. Kore-Eda never dabbles in outright melodrama. What we see is what we get and what we see here is a family, a group of people who may not know how to handle their own pains, but who do know how to take care of the needs of others. In one particular scene we see the father and mother mumble to each other when they see the little girl sitting in the cold hallway of the tiny house. She’s waiting for her new brother to come home after he ran away angrily and the two wonder how a child, ignored by her own parents, can still feel so much for somebody else. The answer to that, after seeing Shoplifters is a truism that many take for granted too easily: it’s because deep inside we all know we need each other, especially the ones we choose to let into our lives voluntarily. While that is only one of many truths this modest, little masterpiece gives us, it may be the most important one in these pessimistic times we live in. Shoplifters is above all a gentle reminder that your real family is the one you choose to be in yourself.

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