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Shoplifters

DIR. HIROKAZU KORE-EDA

'Is it all about the money? What about love? Or relationships?' When the strands of those questions are pulled together in such a delightful manner as they are in Shoplifters, don't fret the questions; just savour the storytelling.

Shoplifters is a film that delves into lives where groups of people exist in cramped, dingy rooms or even narrow cupboards. It’s not a choice; it’s existence. Personal space is hard fought. No-one caught up in the circumstances knows anything else. They are places where granddaughters share a bed with their grandma.

These fringe dwellers only venture into the larger city to claim their pension or explore the spaces, whilst the city dwellers only venture out to the fringes to collect rent or travel in an emergency services vehicle. Even then, why incur the cost of calling for an ambulance if you already know the person is dead?

For Osamu (Lily Franky), shoplifting is viewed as a necessity in order to support his ‘family’ - i.e. the four people with whom he shares the occupancy. He has taught his adopted son, Shota (Kairi Jō), the tricks of the trade, because that's all he has known himself. There is nothing more to pass on.

When Osamu and Shota stumble across a young girl, Yuri (Miyu Sasak), who is seemingly abandoned in her flat, hungry, afraid, and with paper thin skin, they take her in for a meal. They discover the burn marks on her body and she becomes another member of this nuclear family.

Subtle hints as to the true nature of people’s backgrounds are dropped into the dialogue. As Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) curls up in bed, her grandmother, Hatsue (Kirin Kiki), asks, "What is wrong?" Aki asks her why she thinks that something is wrong. "Because your feet are colder than normal," is the perceptive response. With the fact that Aki is working in a peep room acting out the fantasies of hidden male observers, it’s a wonder that her whole body is not frozen.

Typically, it’s the grandmother who holds the unit together. When she dies, the unravelling begins.

In the final half-hour, the lives of the six protagonists are forever changed as past secrets are exhumed. The relationship between Osamu, his wife Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) and Shota is peeled away, allowing Ando to deliver an utterly captivating and emotion filled questioning of her own ability to act as a mother.

Written by Hirokazu Kore-eda and supported by three producers - Matsuzaki Kaoru, Yose Akihiko and Taguchi Hijiri - the film won the Palme d'Or in 2018, which was a fine way to remember Kirin Kiki, who passed away in 2018.

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