a film di­rected by Hirokazu Kore-eda

The New York Review of Books - - Contents - Phillip Lopate

Sho­plifters a film di­rected by Hirokazu Kore-eda

Last year’s Cannes Film Fes­ti­val jury, chaired by Cate Blanchett, awarded its top prize, the Palme d’Or, to Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Sho­plifters. It was an un­con­tro­ver­sial choice, since Kore-eda’s fea­tures have been ap­pear­ing on the in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­val cir­cuit since the mid-1990s, and his lat­est film was ap­plauded by crit­ics as tightly con­trolled, beau­ti­fully acted, mov­ing, and clearly one of his best. There was, how­ever, a lin­ger­ing re­sis­tance on the part of some high-art cinephiles to Koreeda’s corona­tion, per­haps be­cause in the past he has shown crowd-pleas­ing tendencies, and be­cause he lacks a sig­na­ture art-house vis­ual style, along the lines of re­cent global masters like Ab­bas Kiarostami, Hou Hsiaohsien, the Dar­denne broth­ers, Wong Kar-wai, or Hong Sang­soo. That he is con­sid­ered by many the lead­ing Ja­panese di­rec­tor of his gen­er­a­tion may say more about the de­cline of that coun­try’s film in­dus­try, once on a par with those of the United States and France, than about his own merit. Nev­er­the­less, he con­sis­tently ex­plores cer­tain cen­tral themes, writes as well as ed­its his films, and is very much an au­teur.

Sho­plifters re­volves around a group of poor peo­ple who have banded to­gether through eco­nomic ne­ces­sity but have come to con­sider them­selves a fam­ily.

There is Grandma, on whose pen­sion checks they par­tially sub­sist; Osamu and Nobuyo, a mid­dleaged, marginally em­ployed cou­ple who may or may not be mar­ried but who (we learn in time) have bonded over their long-ago mur­der of the woman’s hus­band; “Sis­ter,” who earns her liv­ing at a peep show jig­gling her breasts; a twelve-year-old boy who was aban­doned at a pachinko par­lor and adopted in­for­mally into the fam­ily; and, fi­nally, a fiveyear-old girl whom they find seem­ingly aban­doned in the street, and whom they also take in. When the lit­tle girl is even­tu­ally re­ported miss­ing by her neg­li­gent par­ents, the fam­ily ra­tio­nal­izes that they can’t be pros­e­cuted as kid­nap­pers be­cause they haven’t de­manded a ran­som. They all live and sleep to­gether in one big room, Grandma’s place, whose dense com­ings-and-go­ings are deftly cap­tured by cin­e­matog­ra­pher Ryuto Kondo’s rest­less, pan­ning cam­era. Osamu, who oc­cu­pies the fa­ther role in this un­of­fi­cial fam­ily, is a con­struc­tion worker who has been in­ca­pac­i­tated by a job ac­ci­dent; his part­ner, Nobuyo, is seen work­ing in a laun­dry, but when the boss de­cides that ei­ther she or her col­league must step aside, the other woman threat­ens to turn her in to the po­lice for hous­ing the lit­tle girl, and Nobuyo is forced to re­lin­quish her job. Nei­ther of these em­ploy­ment losses reg­is­ters as cat­a­strophic; they are shrugged off as part of the ex­pected hard-luck pat­tern for those at the bot­tom of the so­cial scale. Nor does sup­ple­ment­ing their slen­der in­comes by shoplift­ing make them any­thing like hard­ened crim­i­nals;

they are sim­ply try­ing to get by. Osamu has taught the twelve-year-old boy, Shota, how to steal items in su­per­mar­kets, and Shota passes on his knowl­edge to the (will­ing) five-year-old girl.

The pack has adapted to their con­strained cir­cum­stances, and for the first two thirds of the film we watch them op­er­at­ing more or less har­mo­niously within a daily round. Though the clan mother, Nobuyo, says that peo­ple like her who were raised by in­dif­fer­ent par­ents usu­ally end up be­ing cruel and in­dif­fer­ent to oth­ers, the op­po­site ap­pears true here. Ca­sual kind­ness and in­clu­sive­ness are the rule. Ex­am­in­ing

scars on the lit­tle girl’s body, Nobuyo says she was sim­i­larly treated: “If they say they hit you be­cause they love you, that’s a lie. If they love you, this is what they do,” she tells the girl, wrap­ping her in a hug and be­gin­ning to tear up.

The clan goes off to the beach, where they seem at their hap­pi­est, but it is here that Grandma dies, at which point the whole scheme starts to un­ravel. Un­able to pay for a fu­neral, they bury her se­cretly. The author­i­ties catch on to their de­cep­tions, and the fam­ily is dis­man­tled, thanks to the in­flex­i­ble bu­reau­cratic ma­chin­ery of the le­gal sys­tem and so­cial wel­fare. This set of events is brought on by the grow­ing con­science of Shota, who has be­gun to have doubts about shoplift­ing. He be­trays the fam­ily by al­low­ing him­self to be caught, in­jur­ing him­self in the process, and they in turn be­tray him by run­ning away while he is re­cov­er­ing in the hos­pi­tal.

Ear­lier, Shota had trou­ble ac­ced­ing to Osamu’s re­quest that he call him “Dad.” To­ward the end of the film, there is a brief scene in which the two re­unite and con­fess their mu­tual be­tray­als. Osamu apol­o­gizes for aban­don­ing the boy and says, “From now on, I’m not your dad.” But in Kore-eda’s uni­verse, the cri­te­ria for par­ent­hood are not so eas­ily de­ter­mined. Shota whis­pers “Dad” to him­self for the first time as his bus pulls away, leav­ing Osamu wav­ing on the side­walk.


Kore-eda, born in 1962 in Tokyo, be­gan his film ca­reer mak­ing

tele­vi­sion doc­u­men­taries. The sub­ject mat­ter he chose for them would re­ver­ber­ate in his fea­tures. Au­gust With­out Him (1994) ini­ti­ated his stud­ies of marginal­ized in­di­vid­u­als: it fo­cused on the first Ja­panese gay man who openly de­clared him­self HIV-pos­i­tive through sex­ual con­tact. We see him clev­erly de­vel­op­ing and or­ches­trat­ing a com­mu­nity of vol­un­teers who as­sist and nurse him, in­clud­ing the film­maker him­self. We fol­low the sub­ject’s plucky ac­tivist ef­forts and his slow dy­ing of AIDS; in a coda his com­mu­nity of helpers be­gin their griev­ing.

With­out Mem­ory (1996) is a doc­u­men­tary

about a man who, due to an ill­ness wors­ened by med­i­cal mal­prac­tice, has been left with short-term am­ne­sia. He can­not re­mem­ber any­thing for longer than a few mo­ments. Con­tin­u­ally dis­tressed by his in­abil­ity to dis­tin­guish be­tween dream and re­al­ity, he has to out­source his mem­ory to his wife and chil­dren. The fact that he was a para­medic be­fore he be­came ill makes his help­less­ness all the more poignant. Out­ra­geously, his con­di­tion was brought on by hos­pi­tal bud­get cut­backs, which de­prived him of the nec­es­sary post-op vitamins that would have pre­vented the am­ne­sia. (Koreeda’s films typ­i­cally touch on some as­pect of so­cial in­jus­tice, even if only qui­etly in the back­ground.)

An ear­lier doc­u­men­tary, How­ever ... (1991), about two sui­cides and the peo­ple they left be­hind, fed di­rectly into Maborosi (1995), his first dra­matic fea­ture. Maborosi is a crit­i­cally ac­claimed film about a young widow whose seem­ingly happy hus­band killed him­self, and who be­comes ob­sessed with fig­ur­ing out why. It pur­sues a slow, dirge-like pace, with many static lo­ca­tion shots emp­tied of peo­ple. Kore-eda ad­mits he was smit­ten at the time with his great Tai­wanese con­tem­po­rary Hou Hsiao-hsien, whose long-shot, melan­choly, semi­au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal films such as A Time to Live and a Time to Die and Dust in the Wind set an in­flu­en­tial stan­dard for Asian cin­ema. Maborosi was Kore-eda’s most Hou-like, self­con­sciously com­posed ef­fort: the re­sult

was vis­ually rav­ish­ing, if a bit too arty and lugubri­ous. In any case, he would quickly aban­don this fly-in-am­ber man­ner for more dy­namic, fast-paced edit­ing and a dart­ing, catch-as-catch-can cam­era, both tech­niques more in keep­ing with his doc­u­men­tary back­ground. His next fea­ture, Af­ter Life (1998), an in­ter­na­tional hit, braided to­gether his pre­oc­cu­pa­tions with mem­ory, be­reave­ment, and re­silience. In its imag­i­na­tive premise, the dead are sent to a pro­cess­ing cen­ter where each must con­jure up a sin­gle happy mem­ory that will al­low for tran­si­tion into eter­nal af­ter­life. What brought fresh­ness to this sort­ing-the-dead con­ceit was its set­ting: a per­fectly mun­dane, grubby struc­ture, most likely an old school­house, in which the in­ter­view­ing team tries to pry open the mem­o­ries of the re­cently de­ceased. Part in­ter­roga­tors, part ther­a­pists, these an­gelic bu­reau­crats view their task as get­ting the in­ter­vie­wees to face the truth, while prod­ding even the most crabby, mo­rose, and dis­en­chanted among them to ad­mit that there may have been shin­ing mo­ments when they were loved or con­tented. The first hour of the movie is brisk and orig­i­nal, while the lat­ter part drags, as the in­ter­view­ing team turns into a film crew recre­at­ing choice rec­ol­lec­tions for the ben­e­fit of the dead. My sense is that many of Kore-eda’s films go on too long, and I would guess it’s be­cause he labors to ex­tract some feel­good, morally con­sol­ing con­clu­sion from a con­flict-laden sit­u­a­tion. Some of these re­demp­tive mo­ments come across as squishy, as does the fre­quently corny tin­kling mu­sic he places in the back­ground and the border­line-kitsch mon­tages he as­sem­bles of char­ac­ters hav­ing fun. It is part of what makes him so dif­fi­cult to char­ac­ter­ize: he’s part com­mer­cial film­maker, part art-house au­teur.

A quirky lit­tle film, Dis­tance (2001), came next: this time, a group of peo­ple united by the tragic cir­cum­stance that some of their rel­a­tives were mem­bers of a sui­ci­dal sab­o­tage cult, like the Aum Shin­rikyo group that re­leased sarin gas in the Tokyo sub­way, gather to­gether in the woods to honor the de­ceased and to con­tem­plate the mean­ing of their loss. It was fol­lowed by No­body Knows (2004), also in­spired by news sto­ries, which many con­sider Kore-eda’s mas­ter­piece. No­body Knows is about four chil­dren whose party-girl mother aban­dons them for weeks at a time, go­ing off with lovers and leav­ing them in the care of the old­est child, an ul­tra-re­spon­si­ble twelveyear-old boy. He could be the twin of Shota in Sho­plifters. This is a re­peat­ing fig­ure in Kore-eda: an eleven- or twelveyear-old boy, com­ing of age, sto­ical and pre­co­ciously ma­ture, who watches the in­dis­cre­tions of adults and shoul­ders the bur­den of con­science. This time the boy con­fronts his run­away mother and ac­cuses her of be­ing self­ish. “Don’t I have the right to my own hap­pi­ness?” she replies inanely. Yuya Ya­gira’s bril­liant

per­for­mance made him the youngest per­son ever to re­ceive the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val’s Best Ac­tor Award.

Kore-eda has been justly cel­e­brated for his han­dling of child ac­tors. Whether pro­fes­sional or am­a­teur, they have none of that coy­ness and in­suf­fer­able preen­ing of­ten seen in Hol­ly­wood movie chil­dren. Rather, they tend to be re­served, dig­ni­fied, wary, hold­ing se­crets in­side, play­ful among other chil­dren but never flirt­ing with the cam­era. In No­body Knows and Sho­plifters, when the chil­dren talk to each other, they are far less se­cre­tive than with adults. Kore-eda’s cin­ema vérité back­ground al­lows him to eaves­drop, to covertly watch them as though he were film­ing a doc­u­men­tary.

His sto­ries about chil­dren un­der duress fit squarely in the ne­o­re­al­ist tra­di­tion, from Vit­to­rio De Sica’s Shoeshine and Roberto Ros­sellini’s Ger­many Year Zero, down through Satya­jit Ray’s Pather Pan­chali, Mira Nair’s Salaam Bom­bay!, and Héc­tor Babenco’s Pixote. That so many land­marks of ne­o­re­al­ism and its de­scen­dants have fo­cused on chil­dren must de­rive from the op­por­tu­nity of dra­ma­tiz­ing their vul­ner­a­bil­ity and rel­a­tive in­no­cence against a harsher so­cial back­drop. In Kore-eda’s films there is also the re­cur­ring theme of “throw­away chil­dren,” who live on their own by their wits, and who grow up too quickly, re­lin­quish­ing the or­di­nary pro­tec­tions of child­hood.

In Still Walk­ing (2008), one of his most per­sonal films, Kore-eda switched to a mid­dle-class mi­lieu: the stern, with­drawn pa­tri­arch who keeps his grown chil­dren at a dis­tance, and his wife, who at first seems grand­moth­erly but comes to re­veal a much more carp­ing, un­for­giv­ing side, and whose griev­ing for a long-dead son pre­vents her from fully ac­knowl­edg­ing her liv­ing one. “That kind of re­la­tion­ship, where the par­ent and the child are very out of sync emo­tion­ally, it’s very re­flec­tive of my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence,” Kore-eda told a New York Times in­ter­viewer, Den­nis Lim. The sur­viv­ing son has, in the face of his mother’s dis­ap­proval, mar­ried a widow with a young boy, who also can’t bring him­self to call his step­fa­ther “Dad.” Si­b­ling ri­valry and com­pe­ti­tion for scarce parental ap­proval pro­duce a tense, re­sent­ful at­mos­phere that in­evitably leads to con­fronta­tion. What­ever fa­mil­ial rec­on­cil­i­a­tions en­sue feel more like a smooth­ing-over than a true un­der­stand­ing. The mother is pla­cated for a mo­ment by a but­ter­fly that fol­lows her, and that she is con­vinced is the spirit of her dead son. (The dead don’t ever re­ally go away in Kore-eda’s films: the young widow re­as­sures her son that his fa­ther is still in­side him.)

In Af­ter the Storm (2016), one of Kore-eda’s most de­light­ful and con­sis­tently sus­tained works, a shaggy, lik­able nov­el­ist with writer’s block and a gam­bling prob­lem sup­ports him­self as a pri­vate de­tec­tive, mean­while tail­ing his ex-wife and try­ing to get back to­gether with her. The writ­ing is comic and the char­ac­ters sharply drawn, in­clud­ing a mar­velously prag­matic grand­mother and an­other of Kore-eda’s thought­ful early ado­les­cent boys, who con­fesses, “Some­times I’m a child, some­times I’m a grownup.” In the end, af­ter the nov­el­ist’s at­tempt to stage a rap­proche­ment with his ex-wife fails and she tells him “It’s over,” he says with res­ig­na­tion, “I un­der­stand. I’ve al­ways un­der­stood.”


Still Walk­ing and Af­ter the Storm, the pro­lific Kore-eda made sev­eral other fea­tures and tele­vi­sion se­ries, and even tried his hand at some genre pic­tures. Air Doll (2009), a mildly erotic fan­tasy about a life­size in­flat­able sex toy that comes alive and goes to work in a video store, was seen by some crit­ics as an em­bar­rass­ment, though I found it steadily watch­able and fi­nally touch­ing; it is, in any case, an­other study of a marginal­ized fig­ure try­ing to fit into an in­creas­ingly tech­nol­ogy-crazed, de­hu­man­ized world. As she per­ishes in a heap of garbage, to be re­cy­cled, some float­ing milk­weed fuzz be­comes a sym­bol for her es­cap­ing soul. Recycling it­self

is a kind of rein­car­na­tion, though it re­mains un­clear whether Kore-eda him­self be­lieves in an af­ter­life or is merely show­ing how his griev­ing char­ac­ters cling to su­per­sti­tious con­so­la­tions. Fur­ther branch­ing out into genre pic­tures, he made The Third Mur­der (2017), a com­pe­tent if by-the-num­bers le­gal thriller that dou­bles as a polemic against cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. But his spe­cialty has al­ways been the fam­ily film. His 2013 fea­ture, Like Fa­ther, Like Son, was well re­ceived, even win­ning the Cannes Jury Prize that year. The plot re­volves around an ef­fort to cor­rect an er­ror by which two boys, now around eleven, were switched at birth, rais­ing the char­ac­ter­is­tic Kore-eda quandary: Who is the le­git­i­mate par­ent, the bi­o­log­i­cal one or the one who can best love the child? In a fol­low-up fea­ture, Our Lit­tle Sis­ter (2015), three sib­lings dis­cover that their fa­ther has had an­other daugh­ter and try to bring her into their fam­ily. I must ad­mit I found Like Fa­ther, Like Son and Our Lit­tle Sis­ter too stu­diously heart­warm­ing, and their vis­ual tech­nique too close to a con­ven­tional made-for-TV prod­uct.

They did, how­ever, re­in­force this di­rec­tor’s ex­plo­ration of his fa­vorite theme, which I take to be the at­tempt, in the face of ill­ness, emo­tional dam­age, loss, di­vorce, aban­don­ment, or death, to re­build the fam­ily unit. We see it in Au­gust With­out Him, in which the HIV pa­tient en­lists a cadre of vol­un­teers to care for him; in With­out Mem­ory, in which the man’s loss of iden­tity via am­ne­sia is com­pen­sated for by farm­ing out mem­ory to his wife and chil­dren; in Maborosi, in which the widow re­mar­ries and tries to root her­self in a sec­ond fam­ily; in Af­ter Life, in which the bu­reau­crats of the dead form a sup­port­ive com­mu­nity; in Af­ter the Storm, with the fu­tile ef­fort to heal the cou­ple’s sep­a­ra­tion; in Like Fa­ther, Like Son, via the re­as­sign­ment of the two boys, for bet­ter or worse; in Our Lit­tle Sis­ter, with the at­tempt to in­cor­po­rate the newly dis­cov­ered si­b­ling; and of course in Sho­plifters, which is ex­plic­itly about an ar­ti­fi­cially re­con­fig­ured fam­ily. That point is made clear when Nobuyo tells the grand­mother, “Some­times it’s bet­ter to choose your own fam­ily.” The grand­mother replies, “If only to have no ex­pec­ta­tions.”

This theme has spe­cial mean­ing in Ja­panese cul­ture, as the tra­di­tional ex­tended fam­ily, with its rev­er­ence for the el­derly and its stay-at-home moms, be­gan to break down. In post­war films such as Ozu’s Tokyo Story, Kuro­sawa’s Ikiru, Naruse’s Mother, Ki­noshita’s A Ja­panese Tragedy, and Mi­zoguchi’s Women of the Night, Ja­panese di­rec­tors took up nar­ra­tives about the frac­tured fam­ily unit. The theme par­tic­u­larly col­ored a type of film known as shomin-geki, which Joseph L. Anderson and Don­ald Richie de­fined in their clas­sic The Ja­panese Film as “the drama about the com­mon peo­ple . . . . Es­sen­tially a film about pro­le­tar­ian or low­er­mid­dle-class life, about the some­times hu­mor­ous, some­times bit­ter re­la­tions within the fam­ily, about the strug­gle for ex­is­tence, it is the kind of film many Ja­panese think of as be­ing about ‘you and me.’”

Kore-eda’s warm sym­pa­thy for or­di­nary peo­ple, which some­times en­snares him in sen­ti­men­tal­ity, may ex­plain why his char­ac­ters so of­ten seem nor­mal, un­quirky, re­lat­able like “you and me,” and also why a film like Sho­plifters is pop­u­lar at the Ja­panese box of­fice. He re­fuses to pathol­o­gize his char­ac­ters’ mis­deeds, to turn them into grotesques, as his more edg­ily per­verse pre­de­ces­sors Nag­isa Oshima and Sho­hei Ima­mura might have. Com­pare, for in­stance, his rather tol­er­ant han­dling of the par­ents’ ex­ploita­tion of their son’s light fin­gers with the creepy cou­ple in Oshima’s Boy, who col­lect in­surance by hav­ing their son “ac­ci­den­tally” hit by ve­hi­cles. Even the shock­ing rev­e­la­tion that the cou­ple in Sho­plifters once killed the woman’s hus­band is ca­su­ally fi­nessed by their ra­tio­nale of self­de­fense: he’d have killed them if they hadn’t got­ten to him first.

The ten­der­ness with which Osamu treats his adopted son, Shota, while wait­ing pa­tiently for the boy to call him “Dad,” makes it im­pos­si­ble for us to view him as any­thing but a good man. Notic­ing the boy eye­ing a woman’s cleav­age on the beach, he as­sures him that a man’s in­ter­est in fe­male breasts is nor­mal, as is the boy’s wak­ing up “big” with an erec­tion in the morn­ing. He is help­ing to steer the boy through pu­berty by quelling his fears of be­ing weird. As a fa­ther-fig­ure he has good in­stincts, and even his bad ones seem rea­son­ably mo­ti­vated. When the author­i­ties de­mand to know whether Osamu feels guilty for mak­ing his chil­dren shoplift, he says, per­plexed, “I didn’t know what else to teach them.” The hu­man­ity of these in­di­gents is un­der­scored in a lovely scene in­volv­ing sex. Ear­lier, Osamu was asked when he and Nobuyo “do it,” given the lack of pri­vacy in their one-room flat, and he an­swered solemnly that there’s no need any­more for that sort of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity; their love is on a dif­fer­ent plane, it comes from a heart con­nec­tion. Shortly af­ter Nobuyo loses her job at the laun­dry, we see them alone in the flat; it’s raining out­side, it’s very hot, and the cou­ple, stripped down, are eat­ing noo­dles. Nobuyo is wear­ing a new night­gown, which she ex­plains she treated her­self to af­ter get­ting fired, along with some toi­letries. They dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­ity of open­ing an­other bar, as in the old days, but the idea goes nowhere. She whis­pers in his ear co­quet­tishly. He seems alarmed, fall­ing back­ward as she mounts him, he stalling for time, not ready. We cut to later: he is hum­ming, ob­vi­ously pleased with him­self. “I did it. Hey, I did it, right?” She is smok­ing a cig­a­rette, amused by his pride, and says, “I didn’t break a sweat.” She then pro­poses “an­other round.” He says, “Hey, how old do you think I am?” Just then the chil­dren en­ter, soaked from the rain; Osamu is spared hav­ing to do it again.

The scene works beau­ti­fully in part be­cause of the chem­istry be­tween these two fine per­form­ers: Osamu is played by the well-known Ja­panese il­lus­tra­tor, de­signer, and ac­tor Lily Franky, whom Kore-eda has used in the past and who brings a comic touch to his role as an aging, near-derelict pa­ter­fa­mil­ias. Sakura Ando’s Nobuyo goes from be­ing gruff to re­veal­ing un­sus­pected lay­ers of sex­i­ness and mis­chief. The scene is also shrewdly writ­ten and shot in an un­fussy way, with the cam­era re­main­ing still the en­tire time, mak­ing full use of the shabby room’s crowded decor. When the plot takes a darker turn soon af­ter and the cou­ple’s way of life col­lapses, the mem­ory of that warm ex­change con­tin­ues to res­onate.

It is clear, even with­out his hav­ing confirmed it in in­ter­views, that the film­maker re­gards this poor fam­ily’s crimes as petty. “Of course,” said Kore-eda, “these crim­i­nals should be crit­i­cized but I am won­der­ing why peo­ple get so an­gry over such mi­nor in­frac­tions even though there are many law­break­ers out there com­mit­ting far more se­ri­ous crimes with­out con­dem­na­tion.” Yet hav­ing ab­stained from harshly judg­ing the group’s law­break­ing, he nev­er­the­less steers them in the last part to­ward a cli­mac­tic atone­ment. In a scene near the end in which Osamu and Shota visit Nobuyo in pri­son (she has taken the rap for the fam­ily’s il­le­gal­i­ties, since Osamu al­ready had a crim­i­nal record), we see her un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally in a lu­mi­nous close-up. No longer try­ing to jus­tify her adop­tion of semi-lost chil­dren, she tells her mate, “We’re not good enough for him,” in­di­cat­ing Shota, and tells the boy, “If you re­ally want to, you can find your mother and fa­ther.”

I can’t help think­ing the shot’s au­ratic qual­ity is a trib­ute to Robert Bres­son’s tran­scen­dent fi­nal scene in Pick­pocket (ref­er­enced ear­lier by the shoplift­ing hand tech­niques), and maybe even a reach­ing for sim­i­lar spir­i­tual depth. The de­struc­tion of this atyp­i­cal fam­ily’s ar­range­ment has forced them all to con­front the un­think­ing way they had been op­er­at­ing. That some­what re­demp­tive con­clu­sion is off­set by a bit­ter last shot of the lit­tle girl, re­turned to her abu­sive mother who never wanted her, star­ing off into the dis­tance and try­ing to make sense of it all.

Sakura Ando, Miyu Sasaki, and Lily Franky as Nobuyo, Yuri, and Osamu in Sho­plifters, 2018

Hirokazu Kore-eda on the set of Sho­plifters, 2017

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