Shoplifters (2018) – Choose Your Family

A lot of people say that if you don’t know Hirokazu Koreeda, it’s a pity for yourself. And apparently, it’s indeed a fact. It’s quite embarrassing when I was new to Koreeda in “Shoplifters”. It won Palme d’Or in Cannes Film Festival, 2018. Koreeda became the first Japanese director to win the award in the decade since Shohei Imamura’s “The Eel” in 1997. This movie is about the ironic and gloomy side of Japanese society. When you know Japan about its cultures, you know you feel guilty when you watch this film. Honestly, when watching this film, I remember the days of my stupidity when my first day in college. I acted like a Japanese, spoke in Japanese, and really “liked” anime.

After watching this film, for some reason, I became a bad guy in this situation and I can’t regret it. I can’t regret it for two reasons. Firstly, it’s because of the past and I don’t want to remember it. Secondly, I’m the same person in the present and the past. “Shoplifters” is about one poor Japanese family making a living. Focusing on isolated people and trying to patch up each other’s flaws in a bond called “family”. They believe the drive to survive together would create a good neighboorhood. However, when they are far from the norms of society, they act unreasonably.

Introduced Lily Franky as the father, taught Jyo Kairi as his son to shoplifting the shop. The father taught all the items in the shop didn’t belong to anyone. They are free to take it selflessly and without giving any money. Not only that, the father told the boy that he didn’t have to go to school. All the kids who go to school are just stupid. Mayu Matsuoka as his daughter works in a sex club. There is Sakura Andô as the mother who works in a laundry room with a low salary. And the last is Kirin Kiki as the grandmother. In a small house, they hide whenever there were guests.

The conflict began when the father and son brought Miyu Sasaki as a five-year-old girl to home. Her parents neglected her on a winter night. In the end, the girl became part of their family. The same pattern continues again and again both in the past and present. However, for them, it requires foresight and patience to understand how society works. They no longer care about the rules in society. All they need is family, togetherness, warmth, and humanity. However, they used it in illegal ways and ignored culture.

Koreeda loves to explore a complexity about a family from a different perspective. The movie is gloomy, ironic, and quite depressing about the bitterness of life. He likes to explore gray color, not just black and white. The theme of the movie discusses the meaning of a family. Just like one of the characters in this film when she talks about irony yet true about family. She said that a family isn’t about blood relations. It’s not about how the kid was born from the mother’s womb. And when she spits the word, I’m just speechless; either impressed with the sentence or feeling sorry to her.

Koreeda also loves a slice of life wherein each of his films, a touch exists compared to films in general. The plot in this movie, gradually, reveals how each character has certain reasons. Just like the opening sequence of the movie. A boy and a father entered a supermarket but spoke through hand gestures. We don’t know who they are but it’s interesting because we know this will continue over and over again. We will see how they both do the same thing. However, it’s not just about the boy and the father. It’s about these characters struggling to fill each other and connect why they do all this in the first place.

Morally speaking, all the characters in this film are very doubtful. But, we understand why they do it and prefer to take the consequences first. We know why a young girl earns a living in a sex club. We know why the father prefers shoplifting rather than making a living normally. The whole situation the characters choose to create themselves. Finally, you know there are no black and white in this film. It’s smooth, simple, natural, depressing, and beautiful at the same time.

Every actor in this movie is amazing especially when they are not over-the-top different from drama films in general. Their performance is so natural and very emotionally strong but raw. They aren’t too sentimental or tragic. They just act like normal people and go through many moments from bitter, sweet, to sad. There is a joy on the way to the beach to a pressure between one character. However, character development is very, very small to notice thanks to the script. The movie is just mindblowing to say at least, an exaggerate word to use. The relationship between characters, the black satire humor, and the moral message is more than about family and togetherness. Back to the first main question, what is a family?

“Shoplifters” is a complicated yet melancholic movie, gloomy, but important in providing a perspective about the theme. It’s about a contemplative about choosing a family. This movie explores the big questions about life and society. It’s about modern Japanese society but also not about Japan itself. It’s about everybody, every one of you who watches this movie. Koreeda cares about people, cares about his country, and everything. This movie has a pessimistic view as if to tell that this is just impossible.

5 out of 5 stars.