By Mónica Delgado

Shoplifters carries, in a lesser scandalous and miserabilistic tone, some components that are usually liked by juries, eager for political correctness and attentive to a cinema which reflects the moral and economical poorness that humanity is living. We know that in different film festivals, certain “themes” are favored in contrast to the detriment of aesthetics or formal proposals in cinema. A vastly virtuous, creative, original film, may be left out of certain value judgments because it doesn’t talk about refugees, femicide, people trafficking of fratricide wars. Thus, the “urgency” is awarded, necessary films that arrive just in the precise moment to soften consciences or put in agenda some news-worthy topics assumed in their mise in scene, appealing to a fake “art-house”. And if maybe, Hirokazu Kore-eda doesn’t appeal to miserabilism and such, he does board an “urgent” topic of socially marginalized people as a critique to a bureaucratic situation in Japan, narrating the lives of a scammer’s clan that picks up and takes care of children from the street, in the periphery of a country which oppress and separates. The necessary theme pokes out and also the possibility of consensus, in a simple, good-intentioned film, that gave Kore-eda his first Golden Palm.

Shoplifters deals with a usual common sense, about what makes a “true mother”, someone who raises a child or the one who gives birth to it. From this premise, Kore-eda portrays the quotidian life of what could be a father and his little son, shoplifting small things from supermarkets. A couple of petty thieves are the central focus of a story that develops through acts which talk about a “nice” family, where respect and affection primes. Then, the arrival of a neighbor, a four-year old child, abandoned by his parents, will graph the filial nature of this environment, through dinners and visits to the beach. But slowly, Kore-eda will reveal the great state injustice which questions what constitutes a family.

As in Nobody Knows (2004), Kore-eda narrates again, from the keys of melodrama, some acts of survival of the declassed. This time, he sets his gaze in this family of scammers and places it as a model of what could be a real love relationship between parents, children, and brothers, where the real filial links don’t exist. Kore-eda bet shows that in today’s Japan, the state and its bureaucracy are the great obstacle for atypical families and their affirmation of love.

In Shoplifters nothing is what it seems to be, and Kore-eda choses a staging of interiors, where the warmth of this family primes, without appealing to over dramatizations. If the description of this family (with a grandmother, spouses and children) is maybe shown with an eye of admiration, Kore-eda appeals to cheap, predictable drama with the inclusion of the state role, in its thesis part.

Anyway, Kore-eda’s film turned out to be a benign election against the possibility of making miserabilism or political correctness (we just have to remember the disaster of I, Daniel Blake…) win the coveted Golden Palm.

Official Competition – Golden Palm 2018
Director, Script: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Producers: Matsuzaki Kaoru, Yose Akihiko, Taguchi Hijiri
Cast: Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Mayu Matsuoka, Miyu Sasaki, Kirin Kiki
Music: Haruomi Hosono
Cinematography: Kondo Ryuto
Editing: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Production Company: Aoi Pro, Inc.
Japan, 2018, 121 minutes