Published Sep 07, 2018The latest from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda is a heartbreaking slice-of-life look on the lengths an impoverished family will go to in order to stay together. By focusing on the interpersonal relationships between the characters, Kore-eda showcases a tender portrait of the tenuous connection between morality and familial bonds.
It's the characters that makes Shoplifters so strong, including morally dubious patriarch Osamu (Lily Franky), thieving hotel cleaner Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) and sex worker Aki (Mayu Matsuoka), all of whose motivations are thoroughly explored, setting up much of the film's later conflict. All are given strong portrayals, but ultimately it's the kids who steal the show in Juri (Miyu Sasaki), a child of abuse taken in by Osamu, and Shota (Kairi Jō), Osamu's pint-sized partner-in-crime, who serves as the film's heart and, ultimately, moral compass.
Kore-eda's script subtly sets up the tenuous building blocks of the world, only to have them come crashing down in gut-wrenching fashion. With well-written and well-portrayed characters, it makes it all the more fascinating.