'Shoplifters': Life Is Awful but Our Family Is the Warmest Paradise

Shoplifters could arguably be the most impressive movie of the past two years for me, not only because it reflects the reality of the bottom of Japanese society, but the emotions it evokes hits my heart. In 2018, this film defeated several popular films such as Burning and won the Golden Palm Award. Jury Chairman, Cate Blanchett, commented on this work that, “We were completely bowled over by Shoplifters.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters from Unsplash This film tells the story of an ordinary family. A family of five squeezed into a dilapidated house: a grandmother who subsidizes the family with a pension; a temporary worker, Osamu and his wife Nobuyo; Nobuyo ’s sister Aki; and a little son Shota.

As soon as the movie begins, the theme is closely followed. Osamu takes Shota to snitch in the supermarket with a tacit collaboration. When they return home to count their “trophies," Shota casually says, "Oh I forgot to take shampoo!"

One day, this family, who regards stealing as a commonplace, welcomes a newcomer—a homeless little girl named Yuri. The appearance of Yuri makes the family's secrets emerge. This is not a close family with blood relationship. Just like a family who wants to secretly make Yuri stay, this family is also stolen. 

This stolen family spends a long time together comforting and supporting each other. Aki’s parents claim that their daughter had a good time abroad, pretending not to know her daughter’s departure. Shota and his friends have been missing for a long time, and there is no report or search at home, as if this is exactly what his parents wanted.

Director Kazoku has never been a director who is optimistic about human nature and he is pessimistic in most of time. Although we’re unsure about it, his film Like Father, Like Son signals us a direction. Compared to the blood relationship, this film is more inclined to accompany and emotional bondage. It’s also shown in Shoplifters, which reminds us of the fragility of this relationship all the time in the story. In this family, no one is absolutely kind or noble, emotions are real emotions, and love is real love. However, it seems like everyone is looking for certain benefits in this family. Osamu and Nobuyo have always been thinking about the grandma's pension. When grandma dies, the whole family digs to bury her, and there is not much sentiment in their expression. When Shota is caught, the first thing Osamu think of is to run away. Coincidentally, Shota suggests disintegrating this family at this time.

Although there are interests and selfishness behind everyone in this family, as Osamu and Aki say, his relationship with Nobuyo is not sex, but real heart and love. The heart is true; the tears and laughter are true; and the money is also true. Accordingly, the story of these shoplifters truly has a fragile beauty.

I still remember that before the release of Shoplifters, Kazoku wrote in a letter to his audience: "It would be great if the audience could feel 'this is a treasure only for themselves'." So far, I believe he did it!

Empty movie seats Photo by Felix Mooneeram on Unsplash This film is cruel but warm. If possible, I strongly recommend you to watch this movie in your leisure time since it really can hit the deepest places of people’s hearts.