Cast: Ando Sakura, Kiki Kirin, Lily Franky, Matsuoka Mayu
Palme d’Or, 2018 Cannes Film Festival
Japan foreign language film submission, 2019 Academy Awards
There’s no better director than Hirokazu Kore-eda at portraying kids who don’t say what they’re thinking. From the world-worn older brother in Nobody Knows to the son who misses his father in After the Storm, the children who most shape the ethical contours within Kore-eda’s realist renderings often have the fewest lines, but take the most tumultuous emotional journeys. At the center of Kore-eda’s latest, the Cannes-winning SHOPLIFTERS, is the pre-teen Shota, trained by his Fagin-like father to steal household items in supermarkets to sustain their ever-expanding extended family.
One night, Shota’s father finds a young girl shivering in the cold, and he takes her home, not unlike the way he would a bottle of shampoo or a carton of crackers. The girl, Yuri, looks up to Shota, who returns her glance with a sad empathy: he recognizes her hurt and the secrets she can’t divulge. And as Shota takes Yuri under his wing, he develops a self-awareness that starts to change his perspectives on his most unusual family, which includes an older sister figure who works in a peep show and a grandmother (the late Kiki Kirin) who’s figured out a way to never die alone. Underlying the family of six squatting below the radar are secrets the children have been taught to never tell strangers.
Not since Kore-eda’s Like Father, Like Son has there been a more interrogative portrait of family beyond bloodlines. But more than that, SHOPLIFTERS seems the culmination of a career, bringing together the gritty realism of his early features with the charming sentiment of his recent work, delivering a collection of unforgettable characters and a heartbreaking finale that can only make you bite your tongue and say nothing at all.