Written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda (2018)
Winner at Cannes of the Palme d’Or.
This is a deep, fascinating, absorbing film that you may find yourself thinking about long after it is finished.
Father and son shoplifters returning home on a cold winter night in Tokyo come across a small girl shivering outside her house having been ejected by abusive parents. They take pity on the girl and take her home to keep her warm and save her from her quiet suffering.
Home consists of a family which isn’t what it appears to be, living in quite squalid and very cramped accommodation.
The family, especially the women, feel great affection and sympathy for the tiny girl, and it becomes clear that the little girl likes them too. They find scars of burns on the girl’s arms. The “family” decides to keep the little girl which is where we begin to realise that this “family” doesn’t understand the normal rules of society. Also, like so many people, they have very little ability to foresee the consequences of their actions.
They are on the lookout for quick ways to get cash or gain other benefits, but there is no long-term planning or preparation for careers, or legitimate enterprises.
When they see a news item on television about the missing child they are shocked to discover that the girl’s parents have been accused of killing the child. They realise they have to take further action. Instead of returning the girl that they have grown to love to her parents they decide to disguise the girl by cutting her hair and changing her name. Morally and legally they are absolutely wrong to keep the child, but on the other hand they argue would it really be right to return her to parents who have abused her?
Undoubtedly this “family” has a very challenging life situation. They are a group of people who are ignorant, uneducated, impoverished outsiders at the bottom of the social and economic ladder. Unfortunately their answers to their problems become increasingly dangerous.
In spite of their seriously illegal and immoral behaviour they nevertheless possess great warmth, kindness and charm.
Ultimately, of course the authorities do catch up with their crimes and the officials are portrayed as sympathetic people who understand the difficulties of their clients.
In my opinion this quiet and understated film is brilliant and a masterpiece.
We watched Shoplifters on BBC iPlayer. It was broadcast only very recently at the end of November 2020. Apparently it is also available on All4 (Chanel 4’s “watch again” channel) and Amazon Prime. It can also be bought as a dvd from Amazon. Link below.