Shoplifters, directed by Hirokazu Kore-Eda, 2018.

with Kiki Kirin (Hatsue), Lily Franky (Osamu), Sakura Ando (Noburo), Jyo Kairi (Shota), Sasaki Miyo (Yuri), Matsuoka Mayu (Aki).

Where did these people come from and what drew them together as a makeshift family? This is the question that gnawed at me as I watched the disparate group of people living in a modest house, all six of them:

–Hatsue, a grandmother, who still pays tribute to her deceased husband, whose pension makes her life possible

–Osamu, a construction worker, well skilled in shoplifting who teaches

–Shota, a ten year old boy the art of stealing, so long as the stuff doesn’t belong to anyone yet, the boy refusing to call the man dad

–Nobuyo, Osamu’s girlfriend, seen ironing among her co workers in sweatshop like conditions

–Aki, a sex worker (peep show variety) very beautiful, perhaps related to granny

–Yuri, a small girl, rescued from a neighbor’s abusive household, with scars from previous beatings

They live as a multigenerational family, piled one on top of each other, no one really responsible for the care and upkeep of the house, except when the little girl wets the bed. Then Nobuyo immediately takes the bedding off to be washed, and the granny pours salt on the girl’s palm, instructing her to lick it, for that is the way one is cured of bed wetting.

Questions of right and wrong arise many times. Teaching your son to shoplift is wrong, right? Removing a girl from an abusive situation seems noble, but isn’t it also kidnapping if you don’t tell her parents? Squatting with granny because she has a pension is just taking advantage of an old woman, isn’t it? As the family’s coherence and affection and inner goodness make themselves plain, the honor among thieves is tested.

So much depends on the anchor of the old woman who mothers not just the little girl, but also the young woman known as Aki. When Hatsue disappears, things begin to fall apart. Shota, a boy on the verge of adolescence, hesitates when Osamu asks him to stand lookout for a car theft — the car clearly already belongs to someone, so to steal from that person would violate the code he was brought up in.

Osamu and Shota scope out the goods in a market

The sad denouement could be predicted, but thanks to the stellar performances of all the actors, especially Sakura Ando, who asks fundamental questions such as, is giving birth the only way you qualify to be a mother. The movie gets under your skin, and makes you wonder why you can’t pick your own family, and once you have, and made it work, why should the legal authorities get to take it away.

Yuri and Shota

Hatsue, or granny

About Patricia Markert

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3 Responses to Shoplifters, directed by Hirokazu Kore-Eda, 2018.

  1. lizagyllenhaal says:

    Thanks, Patty. I loved the movie when I first saw it, and it has been growing on me ever since — subtle, subversive, and heartbreaking.

  2. Pui Ying Wong says:

    I too, love the movie. The characters live outside the norms but so human.

  3. Jack Shalom says:

    It’s very rare for me to see a more than once. I dragged my wife to see it the second time, and it held up just as well as the first time.

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