A family of small-time crooks take in a child they find on the street.

This year’s Palme d’Or winner from the Cannes Film Festival comes from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda and it’s a compelling film about a dysfunctional family unit set in the outskirts of Tokyo. The family live in poverty and rely on the grandmother’s pension and wages from a couple of part time jobs, supplementing this income by stealing from shops as the title ‘Shoplifters’ suggests. The film begins when the family take in a young girl who has been abandoned and potentially abused by her real parents, immersing her in their life of small-time crime. The family is made up of a grandmother, three adults (one male, two female) and two children (one boy, one girl), with it never explicitly explained if they are related or how they know one another, and how they all came to be living together.

Despite the bleak premise, the film is often humorous, with the individuals making the best of their situation and trying to make a living. The film doesn’t judge these people but instead paints a picture of their lives and makes a compelling argument as to why this unusual family unit is better than the alternatives. The contrast between their actions (which are clearly wrong) and the rationale behind them (which are well intentioned) are played out well across the narrative, aided by the likeable characters and good performances from the core cast. This is a group of people living in a highly strained financial position, yet they’re still willing to take in another child, exhibiting their humanity even as it worsens an already dire situation. Kore-eda presents a view of Tokyo far away from the neon lights and the bustling atmosphere and ‘Shoplifters’ particularly excels when it drops down to a child’s eye view of poverty, illustrating this to heartbreaking effect as the past catches up with the family.

Shoplifters’ is a superb domestic drama that tells a story about a family of small-time crooks with humanity and insightful writing, and I really need to seek out Kore-eda’s previous work.

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Starring: Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Mayu Matsuoka, Sosuke Ikematsu, Kairi Jo, Miyu Sasaki and Kirin Kiki


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