By Charmaine Quizon
Japanese film director and screenwriter Hirokazu Kore-eda has again made cinephiles reduced to tears with his latest motion picture “Shoplifters”. The said film opened in theaters last June of 2018. Kore-eda is known for his fervor on giving the audience movies which revolve around family which is very apparent in his other films like “After the Storm” (2016), “Like Father, Like Son” (2013), and “I wish” (2011).
Shoplifters is real. The location, the characters, and the problem are all real. As the title suggests, Shoplifters is about poverty and the characters’ dependence to this petty crime shoplifting just to survive. Japan’s problem in poverty and the rise of shoplifting cases have inspired Kore-eda in making this film. This family drama is more than about Shibata’s financial struggle though but centers on the love they have for each other despite no blood relationship. There are six major characters in this film who individually contribute to the unique identity of the Shibata family. They live in a house owned by an elderly Hatsue with Osamu who has recently been terminated from job and his wife Nobuyo; Aki, a club hostess; Shota, a young boy the couple found alone in a car. The family lives through Hatsue’s deceased husband’s pension and Osamu and Shota’s shoplifting drill. Then Yuri, a girl from the neighborhood came into their lives which gave delight to the family.
The film’s plot is unambiguous. The first scene which shows Osamu and Shota’s shoplifting clearly reveals the problem in the story but definitely does not give so much of how the story would progress, still leaving the audience clueless and expectant. Each character has their individual battle which were
presented magnificently before the eyes of the spectators. The physical representation of the characters is authentic: they perspire, they’re messy, and they get dirty which magnify the emotion audience could draw from the film. Nobuyo Shibata was played by the acclaimed actress Sakura Ando whose performance personally moved me. Her natural acting is admirable
especially her scene with Yuri while the former put the latter clothes into fire which signifies leaving the past behind and owning the child as her own daughter. Ando’s eyes are full of expressions. If this scene will not melt your heart, I don’t know what will.
Furthermore, twisted reasoning which drives characters’ wrongdoing added honesty to the film. Osamu believes it is not kidnapping if no ransom involved. And shoplifting is okay as long as the store does not go bankrupt. Very funny but it would leave audience wondering how they ended up with such thinking. Is the family left with no alternatives or perhaps they became complacent? It is seen that the characters do what they did out of love but we can’t help but question if it’s worth it when in the end they would be separated from each other for the same reason.
The last part of the movie contains the most heartbreaking scenes which could make us rethink of our values. When Osamu was interrogated if he ever felt guilty teaching the children shoplifting. He responded he doesn’t know anything else to teach them. When Nobuyu was told by the investigator that children need their mothers. She left me astounded when she answered with another question, “Is giving birth automatically makes you a mother?” Thus, to echo one character of the film, “Sometimes, it’s better to choose your family.”