By Jocelyn Illing, October 6 2018 —
Walking into the ice-box theatre, I wondered to myself if the film I was about to watch was going to be worth the bitter cold. A few friends had seen it the previous night and had nothing but praise for Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters (2018). Eventually, I found my seat, wrapped myself in my coat and waited for the images on screen to distract me from my current body temperature. After making it out of the theatre alive, I have to say that Shoplifters was worth the frostbite.
The film tells the story of a Tokyo family living in poverty. In order to put food on the table, patriarch Osamu Shibata and his son Shota resort to shoplifting from different vendors throughout the city. During one excursion, the pair find and take home an abused homeless girl named Yuri. While works odd jobs and relying on their grandmother’s pension plan, news of Yuri’s disappearance appears on various news channels, with the investigation ultimately revealing some of the Shibata family’s darkest secrets.
Winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last May, Shoplifters has received stunning reviews — and for good reason. The film was honest and simple, leaning towards the independent film style and away from a cookie-cutter blockbuster. I cared about all of the characters and was taken aback by the shocking finale.
Through themes of family, poverty and hope, Shoplifters depicts the lives of those on the margins of society with wit and beauty. What struck me most was the level of investment it required from the audience — I was constantly questioning the characters’ actions and trying to figure out if their intentions were good enough to justify what they were doing. The film demonstrates the looming power of love and the lengths that families will go to stay together.
With its unique tone, stellar cast and shocking twist, Shoplifters is a must-see.