Review: Shoplifters – Manbiki kazoku (2018)

Shoplifters – Manbiki kazoku (2018)

Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda | 120 minutes | drama | Actors: Lily Franky, Sakura Andô, Mayu Matsuoka, Jyo Kairi, Miyu Sasaki, Sôsuke Ikematsu

A family of shoplifters lives in a poor area of ​​Tokyo. Grandma, father, mother, aunt and son, packed together in a tiny house. Father, mother and aunt have a job, grandmother has a small pension. In the 21st century, that is not enough to keep a family alive, which is why father and son regularly go on the thieves’ path. One evening they find a very young girl without her parents, who is dying from the cold. The girl soon turns out to be an asset to the family, especially when she can lend a hand in stealing.

In the Japanese Cannes winner ‘Shoplifters’ we follow the ups and downs of this family and we discover more and more family secrets. ‘Shoplifters’ is the second film by Hirokazu Koreeda that we will see in Dutch cinemas this year. Predecessor ‘The Third Murder’ was a thriller drama of the more cerebral kind. In ‘Shoplifters’ Koreeda returns to the familiar environment of the family drama. This shows once again how well Koreeda understands the dynamics of a smoothly functioning family.

Because it is a smoothly functioning family, albeit of an unorthodox kind. This Shibata family resembles the Rabbitte family in the film adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s popular Barrytown trilogy (including ‘The Snapper’ and ‘The Van’). It is a family whose members fully accept each other’s lesser qualities, and where a deep mutual love makes life on a few square meters just livable.

But it is also a poor life. ‘Shoplifters’ tells a story about the twisted capitalism of today, with the civilized world slowly returning to the poverty of the 19th century. This immediately explains why ‘Shoplifters’ is above all reminiscent of the literary work of Charles Dickens. Tokyo in 2018 appears to be very similar to Dickens’ 19th-century London. With not only the poverty and the filth, but also with the petty crime of the time. And with the need of the arms to keep each other a little warm.

As in the better works of Dickens, heartwarming and heartbreaking alternate here, with sentimentality never far away. All this in atmospheric images, with now and then some humor and some surprises in the plot. The tempo is pleasantly low, the actors do their best and the sporadic music makes it all that much more atmospheric. With the moving ‘Shoplifters’ we say goodbye to the intellectual Koreeda and we warmly welcome the humanist Koreeda back.

Comments are closed.