Austin Film Festival 2018 Review: SHOPLIFTERS

AFF’s “Shoplifters” (Manbiki Kazoku) from Director Hirokazu Koreeda Takes Your Heart


By Liz Lopez

Rating: A

Director/writer/editor Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” (original title, Manbiki Kazoku) is one of those films that grabs your attention from the onset and then takes your heart to add this emotional and moving story about a Japanese “family” that survives by petty theft – and it never leaves you. This is not a conventional family as we know it to be, but this is one that steals together and stays together to form a multi-generational family unit. There is plenty of wealth in Tokyo, but this story is focused on those facing the worst economic conditions and how they learn to survive, despite having limited employment, also known in the U.S. as the “working poor.” It is not another bleak tale of poverty abroad, but can likely be someone’s reality in any nation. This story has a dose of humor, but also provides a gut – punch of real life. The performances are superb and very moving; ones that you will not soon forget after leaving the theater.   

The opening scene introduces the audience to Osamu Shibata (Lily Franky) and his “son” Shota (Jyo Kairi) and their shoplifting skills. On their way home, they discover a child, Yuri (Miyu Sasaki), shivering in the cold and she can potentially freeze to death. Osamu and Shota decide to care for her, and take her to their humble home. His wife Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) is not ready to accept another household member to be responsible for, yet her heart is touched as she views the child has obvious signs of abuse and neglect. Once she settles in after a meal and bath, she is given the name Rin. Also living in the household is the college-age daughter Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) who performs in a strip venue and the woman they call “Grandma” (Kirin Kiki). Despite the limited income and resources, they readily share their food and take other steps requiring sacrifice for the good of each other.

Rin receives some shoplifting training before very long and yet Shota has second thoughts about it as he has become closer to the child as if she is his sister. Some things happen in the course of their life in this home and the audience knows that the life they have led can’t be a “happy ever after” one. It is unfortunate to say that the sunny beach days don’t last and life turns very dark. It is likely very rare to find someone who does not become fond of these characters and have sympathy for their journey.

There are multiple reviews of this film available since it hit the Cannes Film Festival last May where it won the Palme d’Or. It is best not to read those that reveal so much of the film’s story, and it is recommended to view it with as little knowledge as possible. I did so last October and what a whopper of an emotion hit my heart after I viewed this film.

The crime/drama is rated R and has a run time of two hours and one minute.

The award winning film has been viewed in multiple film festivals internationally and was at the Austin Film Festival this past October. It has had a limited release in the USA since late November and now arrives in Austin for a theatrical release starting January 3rd, 2019.

Source: Magnolia Pictures

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