Shoplifters (2018)

Worthy Cannes Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters, directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, is a wonderfully human film about families and making choices that continually intrigues.

Tokyo Story

by Alexa Dalby


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

A poor but loving extended family lives happily hugger-mugger on top of each other in a tiny, cramped apartment in Tokyo rented from a shady landlord who wants them out. The father Osamu (Lily Franky) is a kindly, yet Fagin-like figure, teaching what seems to be his young son Shota (Kairi Jyo) the tricks of the trade of shoplifting – which is how the family survives. His wife Noboyu (Sakura Andô) has a part-time job in a laundry, but she’s compassionate and sacrifices it for a co-worker. There’s also what seems to be a niece (Mayu Matsuoka), who earns a living in a soft-porn peep show. And there’s Grandma (veteran actress Kirin Kiki), whose small pension they also rely on. The flat’s so small that Shota sleeps in a cupboard and you can almost feel the steam coming off the noodles as they all gather round for the evening meal.

Whilst returning from a shoplifting expedition on a freezing night, Osamu and Shota notice a little girl, Juri (Miyu Sasaki), crying alone outside her house. Osamu is moved with pity and he ‘lifts’ her too and takes her back to his family. She has all the symptoms of an abused child. Although they live in poverty, she’s another mouth to feed and they can barely feed themselves, the family keeps her. They love and care for her as one of their own. Her real family don’t seem to notice she’s gone. They rename her Rin and she becomes part of her new family and starts to blossom, gradually gaining enough confidence to start learning the family trade by going shoplifting with Shota, where she proves to be a natural.

The family could not be more loving and close. But as the story slowly unravels, no one turns out to be the person they seemed to be at the start. Its questions are implicit but powerful.. What kind of society treats its people like this? What is morality? What is a family? Is family made by the accident of birth or by love and kindness? Loosely based on a news story, the film moves at a deliberate pace and goes straight to your heart. It is complex, subtle, devastating, surprising and totally brilliant. But don’t read too much about it before you see it.

Shoplifters premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and is released on 23 November 2018 in the UK.

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