Shoplifters ★★★★

Many times over the years, the contemporary films of Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda have been compared to the postwar family dramas of the late Yasujiro Ozu. But with Shoplifters, winner of 2018’s Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Kore-eda has wandered into the slightly messier neighborhood of Mikio Naruse, who frequently dealt with women living on the fringe. And while Kore-eda doesn’t focus his lens exclusively on female characters in his latest, he nevertheless displays the same deep empathy employed by Naruse, while still delving into Ozu’s interest in the ties that bind families together—and the family at the center of Shoplifters is more interesting than we initially suspect. Based in part on news articles about the petty thefts that the film’s title promises, Kore-eda’s intimately observed drama centers on what might first appear to be a family like any other, albeit one that struggles more than most to make ends meet. Packed into a living space belonging to Grandma Hatsue (the late, great Kirin Kiki, veteran of six Kore-eda pictures), the Shibatas subsist on a diet of groceries stolen by family patriarch Osamu (Lily Franky, another Kore-eda veteran) and his pre-adolescent son, Shota (Jyo Kairi), even though the father has a job as a day laborer. But then, even Osamu’s wife, Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), works and steals, as does eldest daughter Aki (Mayu Matsuoka), who soon takes in another family member in this sublime portrait that deepens as it goes, exposing unexpected layers that gradually reveal Shoplifters to be one of the 2018’s best films(At Coolidge Corner and Kendall Square.)

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