Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

"Some may be dissuaded by the painstaking pace yet the tone manages to be both humorous and heart-rending at the same time." | Photo: Fuji Television Network/Gaga Corporation/AOI Pro Inc All rights reserved

Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda views the world and, in particular, family relationships with a quiet paternalistic eye, which is why his films are imbued with gentle observation and a measured, unhurried pace.

We first meet Osamu Shibata (Lily Franky) when he and his son Shota (Jyo Kairi) are on a shoplifting mission at a grocery store in an upscale area. By chance, they encounter a four-year-old girl Yuri (Sasaki Miyu) who is shivering on a balcony and they bring her home for a meal and offer her a refuge.

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Nobuyo, his wife, (Ando Sakura), is horrified about the prospect of another mouth to feed. The family are on the breadline - even although she has a job, her husband does occasional construction work and granny contributes her pension to the pot. She comes round to the idea, however, after discovering that Yuri has burn marks on her arm and seems vulnerable.

Everyone settles down to welcome the newcomer in to their chaotic alternative midst, not least Yuri who strike up a youthful friendship with Shota in the makeshift house surrounded by anonymous apartment blocks.

When the police become involved in the girl’s disappearance the dynamics change. Because she has been so warmly embraced and clearly is happy in her new environment the little matter of “kidnapping” is suspended in our minds. But what we have believed to have been particular relationships within the extended family emerge later as no longer quite as clear-cut.

Shoplifters was inspired (as in the director’s 2004 film Nobody Knows) by a news story which gives it the gritty feel of realism and continues his interest in children as outsiders. Despite the dysfunctional nature of this family, they manage at the same time to be caring and loving - a paradox that intrigues Kore-eda as much as any audience pulled in to his world. Some may be dissuaded by the painstaking pace yet the tone manages to be both humorous and heart-rending at the same time. Obviously it cast a spell over Cate Blanchett’s Cannes Film Festival jury who awarded it the Palme d’Or.

Reviewed on: 25 May 2018
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A family of small-time crooks take in a child they find on the street.
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Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Writer: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Starring: Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Sôsuke Ikematsu, Mayu Matsuoka

Year: 2018

Runtime: 121 minutes

Country: Japan

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