Shoplifters (Japan)


23 November 2018| No Comments on Shoplifters (Japan)     by Sean Chavel



Initially absorbing, then a little scattered. In Shoplifters (Japan, in English subtitles), what appears to be a middle class father in his weekend clothes goes supermarket shopping with his son is actually a well-rehearsed inventory theft – dad has taught his boy all the tricks on how to avoid attention and drop items into his backpack, and then quietly exit. The large nuclear family at home is packed into a shack, which has a rummaging of belongings and cheap floor mats spread on the ground and a working stove. It soon appears husband and wife have unsatisfying low-wage jobs, and that it is assumed the shoplifting of groceries is just a method to stay ahead and not fall into debt. Immediate complications occur when they decide to rescue an abused little girl from her wretched parents and raise her as their own.

Hirokazu Kore-eda, the director, is often heavily praised for his contemplative, plotless slice of life portraits such as the interminable “Still Walking” (2008) and “I Wish” (2011) which featured actors so tense and uncomfortable in their own skin that they come off as robots. I was rarely so moved by a film, however, then with his 2005 conventional film “Nobody Knows” about an urban clan of children abandoned by their mother. “Shoplifters” gave me faith in early scenes that is was going to match the rigorous power of that one.

“Shoplifters” has many momentous, stirring scenes. As it turns out, there seems to be a lot more complications, mainly deep secrets, with this dysfunctional family than just theft, but it is needlessly prosaic in its telling. There is a pivotal scene where we hint that the grandma in the family has hidden something of a double life, but the direction doesn’t supply individual focus and we’re not on track on how important the scene is until later. The direction is a little listless. Kore-eda could do better by taking particular scenes and punching them up a little better, that’s what a director should do.

It’s easy though to at least get emotionally invested in the children, nonetheless.

“Shoplifters” won the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

110 Minutes. Rated R. Japanese in English subtitles.


Film Cousins: “Street of Shame” (1956, Japan); “Vengeance is Mine” (1979, Japan); “Nobody Knows” (2005, Japan); “Tokyo Sonata” (2008, Japan).


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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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