July 19, 2019

Winnipeg
22° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Film takes subtle shots at societal ills

Japanese producer uses chaotic family to examine issues

“Sometimes it’s better to choose your own family,” says a character in this beautifully resonant drama (in Japanese, with subtitles), which won the 2018 Cannes Palme d’Or and earlier this week nominated for the best foreign film Oscar.

The latest film from Hirokazu Kore-eda, the Japanese master of the seemingly mundane, Shoplifters introduces us to a cheerfully chaotic household.

Osamu (Lily Franky), well-intentioned and hapless, works as an occasional day labourer on construction sites, while his wife, the pragmatic Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), puts in shifts, when she can get them, at an industrial laundry. Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) is a “hostess,” as her job is euphemistically designated, dressing as a schoolgirl — and undressing as well — behind a glass partition.

Along with young Shota (Jyo Kairi), they all live with Grandma (the late Kirin Kiki), subsidized by her small pension, in her cramped, crowded little house. Flanked by cheaply built highrise apartments in a depressed suburb, the usual bright-lights-and-big-city view of Tokyo seems a million miles away.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 30 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Keep reading free:

Already have an account? Log in here »

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

"Sometimes it’s better to choose your own family," says a character in this beautifully resonant drama (in Japanese, with subtitles), which won the 2018 Cannes Palme d’Or and earlier this week nominated for the best foreign film Oscar.

The latest film from Hirokazu Kore-eda, the Japanese master of the seemingly mundane, Shoplifters introduces us to a cheerfully chaotic household.

Magnolia Pictures</p><p>The film Shoplifters was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24.</p></p>

Magnolia Pictures

The film Shoplifters was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24.

Osamu (Lily Franky), well-intentioned and hapless, works as an occasional day labourer on construction sites, while his wife, the pragmatic Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), puts in shifts, when she can get them, at an industrial laundry. Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) is a "hostess," as her job is euphemistically designated, dressing as a schoolgirl — and undressing as well — behind a glass partition.

Along with young Shota (Jyo Kairi), they all live with Grandma (the late Kirin Kiki), subsidized by her small pension, in her cramped, crowded little house. Flanked by cheaply built highrise apartments in a depressed suburb, the usual bright-lights-and-big-city view of Tokyo seems a million miles away.

Shota doesn’t attend school, but he’s getting quite an education in shoplifting from Osamu. Their supermarket outings have the feel of genial male-bonding exercises, as Osamu passes down his skills and some unusual homespun philosophy. "If it’s in a store, it doesn’t belong to anyone yet," he tells his charge.

Magnolia Pictures/TNS</p><p>"Shoplifters," the winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, is the capstone of Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda's career.</p>

Magnolia Pictures/TNS

"Shoplifters," the winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, is the capstone of Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda's career.

When Shota and Osamu come across an abandoned and abused little girl on an apartment balcony, the family decides to take her in and rename her Lin (Miyu Sasaki). It’s not kidnapping, they reason, if there’s no ransom.

It’s not immediately clear how everyone is related in this unusual household. That’s not lazy filmmaking on Kore-eda’s part but a deliberate strategy. Shoplifters looks at what really defines a family, a theme the filmmaker has taken up before in such works as Like Father, Like Son and Our Little Sister. It’s not socially sanctioned legal bonds, Kore-eda suggests, but laughter, love, acceptance and support.

If this sounds sentimental, that’s not how it plays out in this endlessly patient and quiet film. There are hints all along of something secretive and perhaps dark hiding in the past. In the last quarter of the film, the family comes up against the hard lines of government officialdom, prompting a series of revelations and a sudden tonal shift, and this new sombreness retroactively shadows what has come before.

For the first three-quarters, nothing much happens in the conventional narrative sense. Kore-eda follows the family’s daily routines through the seasons, the chill of winter giving way to spring rains, then summer heat and then a life-changing autumn. The family members eat noodles, watch fireworks, steal shampoo, practise magic tricks.

The gentle aimlessness is deceptive. Kore-eda’s direction rarely calls attention to itself but its low-key technical skill is always assured. Likewise, the film’s performances might seem a little offhand and scruffy, devoid of the drama that usually signifies great acting, but the actors gradually build up fully realized characters from small moments and scraps of dialogue. The work of the children, in particular, is astonishing.

And while the film seems to be focused on the everyday life of one family, Shoplifters sneaks in a much larger social statement. Kore-eda is subtle but scathing in his indictment of the economic forces that keep some people marginalized and invisible amid 21st-century prosperity. He also addresses the issue of urban isolation, especially among the elderly.

In the end, the power of Shoplifters is cumulative and unexpected. As with Osamu’s tricks, legal and otherwise, it’s only afterwards that you realize what has happened.

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

Read full biography

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us