A Japanese family struggles to survive through petty crimes and other means in director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s new feature, “Shoplifters.”
It premiered Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival and seems like a surefire Oscar nominee for best foreign language feature. It’s making the rounds of fall festivals like Toronto after winning the top prize in Cannes, the Palme d’Or.
The film centers on Osamu (Lily Franky) and his son Jyo (Sibita Shata), who spend their days going through elaborate routines to shoplift their family’s various needs, whether it’s food, clothes or toiletries. The family is complex, with a wily grandmother, a larcenous woman who appears to be the mother of the group and an older daughter who brings in income by performing sexually suggestive acts at a peep show.
Despite the apparent immorality of the family’s finances, the motley crew act lovingly toward one another. The bond between Osamu and Jyo seems especially strong, as they navigate the complexities of a big city to keep their little hovel humming.
Things begin to change, however, when Osamu and his son are headed home one evening after a day of work and notice a small girl who is crying and has been left alone in freezing weather. Osamu can’t leave the girl behind, so he takes her home to the family, and, after some debate, his wife decides that the family should keep the kid. They eventually discover the identity of the parents, but they also discover that those parents don’t really want the child.
And that’s the most important part of this story. Everyone in this makeshift larcenous family is a throwaway person, and they have come together to save each other. To spell it out any more would ruin the revelations that come later, when the actions of the son bring the family’s complex history to light.
Let’s just say that “Shoplifters” is one of the most humane and touching films of the year. And if you’re not familiar with Kore-eda’s work, you might want to check out “Nobody Knows,” which explores similar themes, before seeing his latest.
Magnolia Pictures is distributing “Shoplifters” in the United States, and it’s expected to be in New York and Los Angeles theaters by the end of the year. It will also be part of the lineup at the Austin Film Festival, which begins Oct. 25.