Provokr Pick: Shoplifters

This Family Drama Will Steal Your Heart

BY: Claire Connors

You may have to search to find this extraordinary Japanese film, but Shoplifters is worth the effort! Written and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, he tells the story of a lower-class family living in a Tokyo slum, struggling to maintain their ordinary jobs. To supplement their near-zero incomes, they descend on grocery stores to expertly steal food for their meals. It may sound depressing but the joy found in their meager lives is beautifully depicted and filmed.

All of that changes when the patriarch of the family, played by well-known Japanese actor Lily Frank, finds an abused and neglected child living on the streets. Although strapped by their own deep poverty, the family, which includes a mother, two daughters, and a grandmother, “adopt” the little girl, a delightful, curious child who takes to shoplifting like a natural. As they adjust to their newest member, TV news picks up the story of the missing girl and a life-changing decision must be made.

Much like the family drama Roma, the likely contender for Best Film at the Oscars next year, Shoplifters shows its audience a fraction of Japanese society often shunned or ignored, and completely unknown to American viewers. It’s a glorious peek into the lives of the poor but close-knit family, existing on the fringes with little hope of rising above their station.

The winner of the 2018’s Palm d’Or, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, Shoplifters is a tender but tough movie that will break your heart and stay with you for days. It’s definitely worth the effort to find it, wherever it’s playing in your area.