Telluride 45: “Shoplifters”

“Shoplifters” from Japanese director/writer Hirokazu Kore-eda stood out at the Telluride Film Festival. This film received the Palme d’Or, the top prize at Cannes. As with his earlier works like “Like Father, Like Son” (2013) and “Our Little Sister” (2015), in “Shoplifters”, Kore-eda examines a family unit with deep emotional sensitivity.

A father Osamu (Lily Franky) uses his son Shota (Jyo Kairi) as a shoplifter for their impoverished family unit. Returning home after a store theft, they see a forlorn young girl Juri (Miyu Sasaki) alone and hungry and they decide to take her home to give her food.

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Lily Franky and Jyo Kairi in “Shoplifters”

After noticing that the girl is bruised, she is “adopted” into the family that includes wife (Sakura Ando), older sister (Mayu Matsuoka) and grandmother (Kirin Kiki). The group lives off of the old woman’s pension.

The film vividly creates the crowded, cluttered living quarters of the family. There is an affectionate rapport between the members of the group. All of the actors give sensitive, nuanced performances. Kore-eda’s films contain some of the most impressively natural performances from children.

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Sakura Ando, Mayu MatSuoka, Lily Franky in “Shoplifters”

Young Juri is instructed into shoplifting and joins Shota in petty thievery. Osamu says that shoplifting is the only activity he can teach the children.

As the actual connections between the family group members are gradually revealed, “Shoplifters” becomes extremely moving and remains an intriguing consideration on what makes up a family.

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