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Shoplifters - Film Review

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by Nicholas Gordon (subscribe)
Freelance writer based in Sydney.
Published November 13th 2018
The top prizewinner at this year's Cannes Film Festival
The Shibata family live together in a cramped, ramshackle house in Tokyo. The family of five's existence is precarious - there's never enough to go around, so they supplement their meagre income by shoplifting. Father Osamu (Franky Lily) has taught his young son Shota (Jyo Kairi) all the tricks of the trade and the duo operate as a crack team, stealing food and other necessities from local shops.

One night as Osamu and Shota are returning home from a shoplifting excursion, they stumble upon a young girl alone and freezing on a balcony. Osamu brings the girl home for a hot meal and convinces his wife Nobuyo (Ando Sakura) that he will try to locate her parents. But at the Shibata home, Grandma (Kirin Kiki) and Nobuyo's sister Aki (Matsuoka Mayu) find scars on the girl's body. Osamu and Nobuyo decide to keep the girl; they will call her Yuri.

Yuri is welcomed into the family, but she is another mouth to feed and financial concerns remain for the Shibatas. Especially after Osamu is injured at work and forced to stay home. He uses his downtime to teach Yuri the art of shoplifting, making her work in tandem with her brother.

Things get complicated when the police launch an investigation into Yuri's kidnapping. Osamu and Nobuyo cut Yuri's hair and re-name her Rin, but it seems hapless and time's running out. Things get murkier still when inconsistencies in the relationship between the members of the Shibata family become apparent and a different and less savoury story begins to emerge.

Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, and winner of the Palm d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, Shoplifters is a delightfully beautiful film. The story gradually unfurls at first, and despite how zany and off-putting the themes may appear (children forced into shoplifting, kidnapping) it's a story that's cheerful and easy to drift along with. But that feeling is replaced when the questions about the Shibatas pile up. It's not until a rapid-fire reveal near the film's end that the entire story is clear.

There are some fine performances. Franky Lily's Osamu is perfect, he's street-smart, gruff and lovable all at the same time. Ando Sakura's Nobuyo is his ideal match, and she is played wonderfully by Sakura. Kirin Kiki as grandma, and Jyo Kairi and Sasaki Miyu as the two children, are also brilliant. The cinematography is a major highlight. It's tight and gritty when the family are in the house, but outside the shots are much more distant, the characters reduced against the vast urban landscapes.

Shoplifters is a film all about family - about what it means to be a family and about not taking family for granted. The result is a film that is surprising and moving. A more than worthy recipient of the top gong at Cannes, Shoplifters is one of the best films of the year. A must-see.

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Why? For one of the best films of the year
When: In cinemas November 15
Where: Select cinemas nationally
Cost: Varies
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by Kiesten McCauley on 15/11/2018
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