Is family something you are born into, or something you choose? Hirokazu Kore-eda asks this age old question in his 2018 Shoplifters. Hot off the heels of its Palm d’Or from Cannes and its Audience Choice Award at Vancouver Film Festival, Shoplifters has arrived in Adelaide to punch you in the stomach and make you crave instant ramen and croquettes.
Osamu (Lily Franky) is the patriarch of a family of misfits. He is the apparent father of a teenage daughter, Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) and young son, Shota (Kairi Jyo), living with his wife, Noboyu (Sakura Andô), and the family’s grandmother Hatsue (Kirin Kiki). The family lives a cluttered life in a small house. They live off grandmother’s pension, Osamu and Noboyu’s meagre salaries from casual work, Aki’s larger salary working in a peep show, but mostly by selling stolen goods.
One night, coming home from shoplifting food for dinner, Osamu and Shota spot a little girl sitting on a balcony. It’s cold, it might snow soon, and she’s there alone. They remark that they see her there often. Very simply, without fuss, they help her off the balcony and take her home with them. And then they don’t take her back.
Over the course of the year we watch them. Juri enters the family and is so loved. We watch the family make do, we watch them survive, and, slowly, we understand the web of relationships within the household and how the characters have been thrown together.
There are beautiful scenes. They cut Juri’s hair, her feet dangling at the floor, and afterwards Aki holds her, “kawaii” she tells her. Despite Osamu’s assurance that he and Noboyu are connected in the heart, not by the genitals, the pair languish in the sun after having sex. They take Juri to the beach, she has never before been, and grandmother sits back and watches the five play in the shallows. But the undercurrent sits uncomfortable underneath it all. Nothing is what it seems.
4 out of 5 stars