‘Shoplifters’ – a sweet and bitter life story of a family of petty thieves in Japan

Shoplifters is considered one of the best works in the career of famous Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda. The film focuses on exploiting things that seem to be so real but makes viewers be attracted to the world of “supermarket thieves”. Director Hirokazu Koreeda’s masterpiece is also touched by the simple storytelling and a profound question: “What makes a family?”.

The movie begins with a very surprising and fascinating scene – a scene of a boy Shota and a man of Osamu cooperating to steal things from a supermarket. The proficiency, good chemistry and no mistake of the two people sketched the first features of the family picture in the film.

With a characteristic storytelling style, the director Koreeda has built the characters’ lives as honest and naked as possible. Every scene that comes to life is very natural, like viewers are right there, witnessing their lives. The family has 5 people, including an elderly woman, a middle-aged man, an adult woman, a teenage girl, a little boy; and one more sickly skinny girl happened to be part of the family. The family lived in an old, cramped, and cramped house. The family struggled through the day thanks to packages of noodles or rice cakes stolen from the supermarket. A teenage girl working at a sex club, middle-aged men and women who only do manual work for low wages, the boy cannot go to school …

What made viewers feel so throbbing was probably when seeing the full scene of Aki working at the club, when little Juri always said that the wound that was all over her body was due to a fall (but really was brutally beaten by his biological mother), when he saw characters burying people behind the house because they could not be buried, or when he heard a young Shota say, “Only those who cannot study at home must go to school. “…

Amid that painful reality, the whole family is always happy and happy with life. One thing that viewers can forever guess, is that everyone in the family is not related by blood. Each person has its own story, its own past, its own pain. That they found each other, when they were thrown away by others, that they chose to live together, and form a family. Juri, the sixth member of the family, was initially taken home to eat with a meal to help relieve her hunger, but was later kept in care. The Nobuyo woman initially insisted on bringing Juri back to her house, but after hearing the curses and beatings at Juri’s house, she changed her mind. The scene where Nobuyo fell to his knees and hugged Juri in his heart was really touching.

Koreeda continuously emphasized the warmth and tranquility through every small detail in the movie, such as the details of the family gathering sizzling noodles and laughing happily, the scene of the whole family going to the porch watching the fireworks, details of the Juri’s fallen teeth were thrown on the roof, details Nobuyo and Aki laughed at Osamu, … Maybe they were extremely materially deprived, but they were always filled with love and wrapped in a way of their own. Then, the call “father”, “mother” becomes something extremely special and sacred. The world of supermarket thieves, of those at the bottom of society, those discarded, has become so fascinating.

A very emotional detail that left a deep impression, when Aki met her client, the two sat together in the sex club room, sharing feelings, listening and understanding. together. The two souls that can meet each other, can sympathize, share with each other in such a situation, a place, is a distinct new detail of Koreeda.

That peaceful life soon ended, when the whole family was arrested. Director Koreeda has used interrogations, criminal investigation elements with his characters. The family of 6 people went against the standards set by the society and deserved to condemn. They “steal”, they “kidnap”, they “hide corpses”, they “teach children to steal”, they “do not let children go to school”, …

But then through that interrogation, it seems that the characters themselves are questioning the audience. What is considered as the standard, what is the society should accept and condemn? The line between nurturing one person and kidnapping one, the line between taking care of one person and abandoning one … is extremely fragile. “You think it’s a mother if you just give birth to a baby?”, “She was thrown away by others, and I found her” …

Shoplifters are also filled with precious little details. There are two moments when the character doesn’t speak out loud, the viewer can only understand through the shot, that is when the smiling grandmother says “Thank you”, and when Shota looks back at the fading figure and calls “dad” . Doesn’t say it out loud but has a thousand meanings. It was a hand gesture that was typical of Shota’s “ritual” before stealing it, which was later learned by another character. It was also a detail that Nobuyo tried to flick his hair to hide the tears rolling down his cheeks, tears that seemed to suppress all his resentments, concerns that could not be said, or even expressed. also no one understand. That’s when the whole family goes out onto the porch, looks up at the sky, and tries to watch the fireworks. There were no fireworks scenes, only the sound of firecrackers, and happy faces looking straight at the audience …

The reason the whole family was arrested was because of Shota, it just seemed that he did not expect to involve the whole family. It seems that Shota is always tormenting about stealing, when asked many times that there is no need to do this right. The climactic detail that makes Shota want to end this life of stealing is when he sees Juri starting to do “ritual” exactly like him. His decision right after that, as well as the decision of his “dad” Osamu when he heard it, were actually all very touching and heartbreaking decisions, but they were all about wanting to protect the people they love. Best. Ironically, that is a decision that those who always impose social norms cannot understand.

With Shoplifters, director Koreeda once again gave viewers a different perspective on life. Only with a very simple theme and story that the movie can leave such a strong haunting impression in the hearts of viewers.

 

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