Deconstructing the notion of family, Shoplifters is the kind of film that will keep you wondering when the film will actually begin, until you realize you’d been watching it develop the whole time.
Shoplifters follows the lives of a group of ragtag individuals that have formed a family bond together in a small house, as they foster a young girl who has become a new addition to their criminal family.
For a film that covers the lives of low-effort criminals, this is a story that explores just as much of the gracefulness and humanity of these people as much as it does their flaws. This is a story about a group of people (outcasts) that feel lost, but have found some semblance of a family. This film feels oddly western in its cinematic pace and style – slow-moving, with careful attention to detail, and patience with the development of its characters; oddly not like a typical piece of Japanese cinema. This is not a film about one person, or two, this is an equal story about the lives of all of the 6 characters that are featured. Each character is allowed their moment, each is allowed their time to show their true selves to us, and each is explored delicately.
As this film has such an even amount of screen time on each character it is hard to distinguish who is really the main character – all of the performances offer their own sense of realness, the grandmother, the couple, the children, and lonely young girl. The actors come together to create a real family that you can connect with, it almost becomes difficult to distinguish them from a real family.
Shoplifters keeps a balanced level of camera-work for the most part, as nothing flashy in terms of complex cinematography is introduced. But the balance works the way it should, as this is a film about the intimate lives of these characters it was appropriate that the camerawork and framing that matched this. The sets were certainly detailed and offered everything that could convince you these people live in that home.
Shoplifters is the story of people who have shaky morals, how we grow attached to one another despite our faults, and how we can grow a bond that is not bound in blood. It is a film that speaks to those who look out for one another despite living a life that is toxic at the same time. I found the performances and silence of the film to be as moving as the morals it explored. Although it follows a group of arguably immoral and shady individuals, Shoplifters is a fantastic example of delicate, authentic, and human writing; proving that even the quietest of films can provide humbling experiences.