“Sometimes it’s better to choose your own family.”Nobuyo Shibata
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s quietly nuanced exploration of family reveals its layers gradually. Introducing its characters as petty thieves, one might expect a social commentary in the vein of Parasite. Instead, we learn that these are disparate strangers who formed their own family. The cluttered mise-en-scene of the small house they share speaks volumes. When they take in a neglected young girl, we see the counterpoint to the stereotypical abduction tale, with Yuri welcomed into a supportive — if morally dubious — household. Shoplifters‘ success hinges on the naturalistic central performances, from the adolescent beginning to question his family to the couple craving acceptance as parents. 75-year-old Kirin Kiki, who died the year Shoplifters was released, reveals both the bitter loneliness of an abandoned woman and the joy she finds in the company of her new family. Through a family constructed by choice rather than blood, we are able to examine the obligations implicit in those relationships and the boundaries of that loyalty when tested. These are wonderfully realised and memorable characters who will remain with the viewer, but it is the intangible strings that connect them which will leave lingering questions.