On the surface the new drama from Hirokazu Kore-eda (After Life was his debut) might appear uninteresting with some discord and disciplinarian encroachment amidst genial home life.
In Shoplifters (in Japanese with English subtitles) his foundation is presumably of humble origins. There’s a birthday celebration, as well as three adult sisters coping with an addition to the’ family’ — much younger; also, a couple learns of their son shifted at birth with another infant. The dichotomies of fleshed out characters — low-level bilkers who use special signals — are presented with much sensitivity and humanity.
A noticeable reflective repose is located in the communion of the folks and the unwanted child they take in (“it’s not kidnapping if there’s no ransom”) cued by the narrative which moves into the courtroom before becoming wrenching though sustaining a bountiful tenderness. Kore-eda works wonders from the boxy while commenting on societal cracks which have egested a heartfelt collective. Yes, the unprincipled have a streetwise quality which have served them well. And, the cast responds remarkably to his masterly expression of their milieu led by Lily Franky and Sakuro Ando (which figures prominently in the poignant conclusion), as well as the likes of Kairu Jo, the late Kirin Kiki, and the sweet Miyi Sasaki.
By watching (and being patient with) a much-deserved Oscar-nominee for Best Foreign-Language Film you’ll see why this Japanese auteur is a world-class filmmaker and how something seemingly so little can turn out to be and feel so substantial.