Kore-eda’s ferocious masterpiece Shoplifters achieved a searing balance between narrative power and formal delicacy, wry humour and bristling social critique, and an absorbing sense of lyricism and levity that never sugar-coated the director’s underlying fury, melancholy and fatalism. A magnificent inter-generational family drama that questions the very essence of what it means to be a “family” vis-à-vis the narrower societal definitions of one – a more full-blown exploration of the central tenet in Life Father, Like Son using an intricate ensemble structure as in Still Walking – the film was, at its core, a subtly scathing indictment against class systems, which the society and its apparatuses are trained at imposing and sustaining through parochial definitions of right and wrong, good and bad, legal and illegal; Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, too, focused on similar themes, albeit in a dramatically different way. The tale’s unforgettable, chaotic, intimate and symbiotically connected non-bioligical family comprised of Osamu (Lily Franky), a wonky daily labourer and charming slacker who procures necessities through shoplifting at departmental stores along with Shota (Kairi Jō), a precocious young boy adopted into this ragtag family; Osamu’s feline wife Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) who’s employed with a laundry service agency; Aki (Mayu Matsuoka), a peppy girl, who works in the adult industry catering to lonely men; a young girl abandoned by her bickering parents who Osamu and Nobuyo adopt out of kindness; and the elderly Hatsue (Kirin Kiki), the defacto matriarch of the absurdly cramped place they all stay together in fascinating sync. Marvelously enacted by the cast – Franky, Ando and Kiki were particularly terrific – the film traversed a deceptively heartbreaking arc through bravura tonal shifts, intricate mise en scène and simmering volatility.
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Genre: Social Satire/Family Drama