Monday, January 7, 2019

Movie Review: "Shoplifters" (2018)

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minute

An unconventional family full of petty criminals finds an abused little girl and take her into their home.

Shoplifters 2018 movie
"Her nail was a bad omen, but you forced me to go to work." (Image Source)
It's an odd thing for a movie to take what would seem like conventionally bad people and make them feel like heroes to be admired. Life can be funny that way. "Shoplifters" is written and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, who may not be a household name in the states, but has made movies that have been regularly featured at international film festivals, movies like "Nobody Knows," "Like Father, Like Son," and "Still Walking." This film focuses on the unconventional Shibata family. Despite that several members of the family work day jobs, they still live in a tiny shack of a house and struggle to make ends meet. They also steal things, like, a lot of things. Most of what they steal is food and hygiene products from local grocery stores, though they do occasionally lift higher valued items to turn around and sell or pawn for cash. On the way home from shoplifting, Osamu (Lily Franky) and Shota (Joyo Kairi) see a little girl named Yuri (Miyu Sasaki) locked outside of her house in freezing temperatures. They bring her home and give her dinner, after which they decide to return her to her family despite finding several marks on her arms signifying that she has been abused. When Osamu and Nobuyo (Sakura Andô) go to return Yuri, they hear her parents arguing loudly about how they never wanted her. They decide it's best they let her stay with them instead of returning her to this toxic environment.
Shoplifters 2018 movie
"Usually, you can't choose your own parents." (Image Source)
Usually, when we see movies about Japan, they are focused on the high-tech nature of life in big cities, or Japan's beautiful countryside history and culture, or some really bizarre, sometimes twisted horror flicks. "Shoplifters" takes a look at the lesser seen side of Japan as poor petty criminals grapple with working low-wage jobs and living in a small, cramped space in an effort to survive the best they know how. This film puts the audience in a position where they must empathize with criminals and choose between the lesser of two evils. When the Shibata family decides to keep Yuri, they are doing something massively illegal, though they do it for noble reasons. As viewers, we felt very conflicted by the end of the story, but who wouldn't want to help an abused girl shivering cold outside as her parents scream right in front of her about how she was unwanted? The acting is here is excellent across the board, and we think Sakura Andô and Lily Franky offer two heartfelt, heartbreaking, nuanced performances that should be gaining more awards traction than they are. The story here is a small, sometimes crazy, and intimate one, but it kept us engaged as we waited and wondered what would happen to this family and whether or not they would get caught committing all the crimes they had throughout the months. As information is slowly delivered to the audience, we find out more details about the lives and circumstances of each character as there's always more than meets the eye. We started to hope that the characters would get caught for their misdeeds, but at the same time, in the back of our minds, we found ourselves fearing for Yuri and her safety since returning home wouldn't be in her best interest. Because there is a trickling out of information, the story is a bit slow to start and can drag here and there, but it is never dull. BigJ was not totally blown away with the film whereas I was a lot more emotionally interested and invested than he was.
Shoplifters 2018 movie
"You can't fight blood." (Image Source)
Part realistic and part vague, "Shoplifters" is a film definitely worth seeing, especially for a glimpse at an oft-unseen side of Japan. It offers a moving, subtle exploration into the moral grey area of law versus morality.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.1/10
RT Rating: ~99%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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