SHOPLIFTERS: A very peculiar family
What is a family? That's a question with no easy answer, or rather, a question that in recent times has elicited new responses, away from traditional notions. "Shoplifters" directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, was the surprise winner of the Palme d'Or at this year's edition of the Cannes Festival. Precisely the question about what constitutes a family is underlying in this movie which starts by showing Osamu (Lily Franky) and a boy, Shota (Jyo Kairi), diligently shoplifting in a supermarket. On their way home, they notice a girl who seems hungry and distressed, without much thinking they take her to their place with the intention of giving her some food. Eventually, the little girl called Yuri but who the family will call Lin (Miyu Sasaki) will be adopted by them in a clearly irregular manner, since the child obviously has her own mother and father, although they are not particularly concerned about the child.
The family is very special: Osamu's wife, Nobuyo (Sakura Andô) works in a laundry where she steals things she finds in pockets, there is also a matriarch, Hatsue (Kirin Kiki) whom they all call grandma, although her only real relative seems to be Aki (Mayo Matsuoka) who works as a stripper in a peep show parlour.
The film presents a very unusual view of Japanese society: marginalized people, trying to survive by petty crime and living outside the regular institutions and norms.At times the spectator may feel disoriented by the relations among the members of the family, but the pieces of the puzzle would eventually be put together as we approach the end of the movie.
There is some kind of sensitivity in the atmosphere of this peculiar family which might move the audience, although there are also some moments where the pace seems to slow down. In the end one must come to terms with the notion that if we are going to find some essential element to define what a family is, we should conclude, with the movie, that a family is simply a group where its members care for each other, regardless of whether there is a blood relation between them.
"Shoplifters" will be liked by those who enjoy the film as art, and also by those who want to take a different look at the Japanese society: how some sectors of society who live in poverty manage to cope.
The movie is being shown in Japanese with English or French subtitles, please check the theatres.