Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Shoplifters (2018 EIFF 2)

I’ve already watched fourteen films at the 2018 EIFF, with six more to go. Almost half of those I’ve watched were directed by women, including three of my four favourite films (impressive!). It’s an excellent sign. 

Probably the most prestigious film at this year’s EIFF is Shoplifters, winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year. My expectations were understandably a little high and that may be why I didn’t give this generally brilliant Japanese film the four stars most critics think it deserves.

Written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, Shoplifters tells the story of a poor family living in a small bungalow somewhere in Tokyo, a bungalow surrounded by apartment buildings and somehow providing a perfect hiding place for a family with things to hide. Among the things the family has to hide are their regular shoplifting trips, but the film focuses on their attempts to hide the newest addition to the family: Yuri (Miyu Sasaki), a young girl who was found, cold and hungry on the street, by Osamu (Lily Franky) and his son, Shota (Kairi Jō) after one of their shoplifting excursions. Osaka’s partner, Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) isn’t too thrilled to have another mouth to feed but eventually grows close to Yuri. Both parents work part time, while the grandmother (Kirin Kiki) adds supports through her late husband’s pension and the teenage Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) makes money at a kind of strip shop. Somehow the family gets by, eating what look like tasty meals and enjoying regular happy times. Until the family’s secrets start to unravel.

Shoplifters is a wonderful understated film, full of top-notch natural acting that makes the story feel real and writing that feels authentic and has a strong humanist message. That all sounds like the masterpiece critics are claiming the film to be, and maybe a second viewing would make it a favourite of mine as well, but the bottom line for me is that I didn’t find it engaging enough to award it four stars. So Shoplifters gets only a solid ***+. My mug is up.

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