This year’s surprise Cannes Palme d’Or winner is one of Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu’s finest films, about a loving, unconventional family making ends meet on the margins of Tokyo. Few filmmakers are as delicate observers of family units – and especially of children – as Kore-eda Hirokazu, and Shoplifters radiates with the same joyous naturalism and sad wisdom of his best work.
The eponymous shoplifters are the Shibatas, a low-income family of five struggling away in a tiny corner of Tokyo. Scrimping and saving, as well as stealing whenever necessary, this overcrowded household one day opens their door to an abused child wandering the neighbourhood.
Wary of exposing their own living situation, they ignore the authorities and secretly adopt the little girl – to everyone’s greater happiness, but also peril.
The permissible definition of what makes a family is constantly under suspicion, even as we witness the Shibata’s closeness. Their ethical predicament will ultimately be laid bare in ways that resound long after this passionately humane film reaches its final frame.
A triumph of subtlety over spectacle, Shoplifters was awarded this year’s Palme d’Or at a festival usually overrun by the most controversial or brazenly political films. In fact, as socially conscious as recent Cannes-winner I, Daniel Blake, the potency of Kore-eda’s latest caught everyone off guard – a testament to his masterfully understated approach to human life, and to the power of calm, compassionate voices in a world where we can barely hear one outrage over another for all the screaming. — Tim Wong
“With Shoplifters, (Kore-eda’s) embrace is as ferocious and beautiful and loving as that of a mother trying to hug away all her child’s fears. His Cannes[-winning] film is a gorgeous thing, a kind of culmination of all of the director’s best qualities…
Beneath even the sunniest parts of this seasonal story, about a makeshift Japanese family scarcely one rung from the bottom of the social ladder who supplement their menial jobs with petty theft, runs a groundwater trickle of anger that swells to a delta in the final moments. Shoplifters showcases one of the modern cinema’s great empaths deploying compassion like a time-delay nerve agent; this is Kore-eda’s expansive humanism, weaponised.” — Jessica Kiang, Sight & Sound