Hirokazu Kore-eda’s newest film, MANBIKI KAZOKU (SHOPLIFTERS), is his and most real film to date. Taking the Palme d’Or at the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival, it is a touching story about poverty, family, and new beginnings. Though each character demonstrates a clear disregard for the law and lives by their own rules, they show a humanity and gentle love towards their family.
Osamu (Lily Franky) and his wife, Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) live with their family in a small, cluttered house in the heart of Tokyo. Shoplifting is their line of work, using swift techniques to steal items such as noodles and shampoo. One day after a successful shoplifting session, Osamu and his son Shota (Kairi Jō) come a cross a young girl, abandoned in the cold. Soon the young girl, Yuri (Miyu Sasaki), becomes one of the family, joining in with their daily shoplifts, yet she still displays a shy persona; Yuri has a traumatic past, indicated by the various burns and scars on her arm.
Kore-eda’s direction is flawless. Various shots frame the characters, whether it be behind bars, in doorways, or outside windows. His treatment of each character’s appearance is accentuated by his framing; accentuating the claustrophobic entrapment of their life of poverty. His fondness of other japanese directors is prevalent, especially in some of the conversational scenes between characters. The camera snaps back and forth between each actor as they speak directly into the camera, an overt homage to Ozu. This love of pastiche from Kore-eda helps to create more familiarity for the audience, in turn welcoming them more into the family of thieves.
Lily Franky and Sakura Ando are triumphant in SHOPLIFTERS. As the patriarch of the family, Franky’s performance as Osamu is in equal parts warm as a father, and distant, as a calculated thief. His humanity shows through in scenes with his son, yet his cold treatment of others creates an ambiguous character: one we should hate, but who we can’t help but love.
SHOPLIFTERS is a powerful tale, one of love, family, and of life. Audiences wont always be able to determine the characters’ attitudes due to the obvious equivocation of language in some scenes, which adds to the enjoyability of the film. We have joined their family, but for how long?