what is the shape of family? in what ways can the bonds of love be stretched, forged, forced, changed? who are we to one another? what will you call me by?

for a long while, Shoplifters unveils itself like a shallowly-buried memory of an idyllic summer. there are many moments of quiet and stillness, disrupted by the ordinary passing of time. this memory peaks on the shore of a slightly overcast beach. the waves come slowly, gently. the sand is white, not too hot. there’s enough courage to say everything but i love you.

but memories are often lapses in time. “we tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Didion wrote, and in Grandmother’s house, identity is a stolen story that is poorly kept with about as much consideration as impulse.

there’s a sort of lushness here that is unexpectedly cruel, in the same way nostalgia for the past is invariably disappointing. wanting we can’t have is one thing; longing for that which never was is another heartbreak. the budding companionship between Shota and Lin is so genuine, so reminiscent of any young partnership: it made me think of my brother and me, but also my childhood friends. part of being a child is thinking you’re invincible, and maybe some of that has to do with not realizing what stakes there are. stealing shampoo is nothing in the grand scheme of things if it’s just something you’re good at. when the real world begins to make itself apparent to Shota, something is lost: innocence, surely, but also that false sense of safety, that incorrect notion that this was child’s play.

if only the trouble stayed that Osamu and Nobuyo weren’t intimate often. if only Aki could let herself be vulnerable sooner, let herself be held and loved. if only Grandmother felt the love surrounding her. if only no one ever had to feel lonely, if only no one ever had to be alone. if only we could say what we mean to one another before it’s too late.

Shoplifters may be about stealing, but it’s also about what we give to one another: protection, shelter, a warm bed to share. it’s dazzlingly how much a little love can mean, and what terrible things we’ll do for it.

also Miyu Sasaki??? incredible