SHOPLIFTERS (2018) – My rating: 8/10

Shoplifters is a Japanese drama directed, written and edited by Hirokazu Kore-edawho also  wrote the screenplay contemplating what makes a family, and inspired by reports on poverty and shoplifting in Japan. Shoplifters took me to a world in Japan that I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced. I am so grateful to have seen this movie. Shoplifters was a new experience for me coupled with love and tenderness and a cliché, “everything is not always as it seems”.

Opening in Tokyo, Japan, Shoplifters focuses on the Shibata family who lives in poverty and consist of Osamu Shibata (Lily Franky), a day laborer who had to leave his job after severely twisting his ankle; his wife Lin Nobuyo Shibata (Sakura Ando), who works for an industrial laundry service, Aki Shibata (Mayu Matsuoka), who works at a hostess club; a young boy named Shota Shibara (Kairi Jō), and Hatsue  / Grandma (Kirin Kiki), an elderly woman who owns the home they all live in and supports them with her deceased husband’s pension.

Osamu and Shota routinely shoplift goods, using a system of hand signals to communicate. Osamu tells Shota it is fine to steal things that have not been sold, as they do not belong to anyone. One especially freezing night, they see Juri, a neighborhood girl they regularly observe locked out on an apartment balcony. They bring her to their home, intending to only have her stay for dinner, but after dinner, Osamu and his wife tried to return Juri to her home, upon arrival, they heard a man and woman (whom they assumed to be Juri’s parents) arguing. They heard the woman yell out that she never wanted to give birth to the child and the man answered he didn’t want her either, so Osamu and his wife turned around and brought Juri back to their home. Later, they made a more permanent choice not to return her after finding evidence of abuse.
Juri bonds with her new family and is taught to shoplift by Osamu and Shota. Osamu urges Shota to see him as his father and Juri as his sister, but Shota is reluctant to do so. Several weeks later the family learns on television, that police are investigating Juri’s disappearance. The family cuts her hair and gives her a new name, Lin.

In the meanwhile, Hatsue visits her husband’s son from his second marriage, from whom she regularly receives money. The son and his wife are Aki’s parents, who believe that their daughter is living in Australia while attending college. The family visits the beach because Juri had never been and Hatsue expresses contentment that she will not die a lonely death. At home, she dies in her sleep. Osamu and Nobuyo bury her under the house and continue to collect her pension without reporting her death.

Nobuyo cannot have children.  She and her husband have created the perfect situation for their circumstances.  They have two young children, a boy and a girl.  They also have two older, working daughters and a working grandmother who loves the children and will do anything for them.  They are all happy and never argue.  Everyone is respectful of each other and the children are especially loved and happy.  Of course things never stay the same.  In reality, Nobuyo and her husband are kidnappers (for a good reason), grandma is a murderer(also for a good reason),  one of the older girls is working as a sort of call girl (this is not for a good reason other than they are poor and she makes more money than if she worked a regular job) and Aki who is suppose to be in college is using the family as a cover.  The children should be in school but they cannot register them because of their bizarre situation, which is why they had to bury grandma under the house.  To see what happens to the family next, you’d have to see Shoplifters, which is a foreign language film with English subtitles. It’s sad but a very good story with a very good message.  I enjoyed Shoplifters, Check It Out — Shoplifters can be seen on DVD at Netflix.

[Shoplifters is Oscar nominated for Best foreign Language film]


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