shoplifters

- Review by Niamh Muldowney

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Hirokazu Kore-eda’s, Palme D’Or winning, Shoplifters is a film of contradictions. It is equal parts uplifting and heart-breaking, shockingly realistic, and yet it carries the air of a fairytale. Still, days after watching it, my thoughts are split on this film, and I can’t get it out of my head.

The story follows a family from Tokyo living in poverty, that must shoplift to feed themselves, and their daily life after they take a little girl into their family. While this may sound like a simple pretence, the film is anything but. As the film progresses, discrepancies in the family’s story become apparent and the audience’s unease grows until everything comes to light in a shocking final act.

Firstly, at points the realism of the film is incredible, particularly in the story. Rather than following a traditional 3 act structure, the film instead prefers to spend the 2 hour runtime following our 6 characters, inviting us into their world as it were. In this way, the causality of most typical films is ignored, instead favouring the seemingly randomness of everyday life. In real life, things both positive and negative happen without reason, and Shoplifters portrays this with, at times, startling honesty.

This honesty also carries over into the film’s style. Rather than relying on the quick cuts of most modern films, the camera seems to have an unflinching gaze. The camera holds shots for much longer than anticipated, and this becomes apparent in how the film captures conversations. Here the choice to not slow zoom into a character while they are talking and to hold the shots for longer than the typical film leave the audience with oddly static shots that, once gotten used to, help you buy into the realism of the piece.

Additionally, the film’s focus on the family is another stand out quality of the film. Kore-eda uses characters’ actions, along with dialogue, to emphasise the importance of the connections we form ourselves rather than those that are thrust upon us. In this way rather than seeming too moralistic, we come to this conclusion ourselves through the repetition.

However, I think my most lasting impression of the film was its contemplation on “good” and “bad” people. To me, Kore-eda proposes that rather than people being good or bad, they simply do good or bad things. Though ultimately, no matter the collect of good or bad actions you have taken, there will always be people who do bad things and get away with them and those who do the same and don’t.

This film will fascinate you and draw you in with its brave technical and narrative choices, and will be a must see for anyone going to the cinema in the coming weeks.