DVD Review: Shoplifters

STUDIO: Magnolia | DIRECTOR: Kore-eda Hirokazu | CAST: Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Mayu Matsuoka, Kiki Kirin, Jyo Kairi, Sasaki Miyu
RELEASE DATE: Feb. 12, 2019 | PRICE: DVD $17.29
SPECS: R | 121 min. | Foreign language crime drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital | Japanese with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio | Video | Overall

One of 2018’s best reviewed films, Shoplifters is the latest effort from Japan’s Kor-eda Hirokazu (The Third Murder), who has won accolades for his family-focused dramas like After the Storm and Like Father, Like Son.

A different type of family is the focus this time—a ragtag bunch of scheming blood relations and non-relatives that band together to survive in a difficult world but find unity within their peculiar arrangement.

The patriarch of the clan is Osamu (Lily Franky, Sonny), who takes in a young, seemingly abandoned girl (Sasaki Muyi, Samurai Gourmet) to live with his family. Despite the threat of being arrested for kidnapping, Osamu, a part-time construction worker, teaches the girl how to shoplift, and she quickly assimilates into the small-time criminal household that includes Osamu’s son (Jyo Kairi, Good Doctor), laundress wife (Sakura Ando, Her Granddaughter), peep show performing teenage daughter (Matsuoka Mayu, Tremble All You Want) and pachinko-loving mother (the recently deceased Kiki Kirin, Izo).

Although all seem to have ways to make money—legally and illegally—it doesn’t seem to be enough. They live in tiny, ramshackle housing and will beg, borrow or steal to get by–with the accent on the latter.

Like Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, another acclaimed and Oscar-nominated film from 2018 (both got nods for Best Foreign Film)  Shoplifters unfolds at a leisurely paced in a detached, anecdotal style that focuses on character rather than plot, then gains momentum and drama in its last half-hour. Here, some stunning revelations about the family members and threats to the group’s unlawful lifestyle are the source of the shift in momentum and tightening of focus.

Shoplifters received an impressive 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes—nothing to sneeze at—and also captured the much-coveted Palme D’Or award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.  Along with its Oscar nomination, awareness for foreign film enthusiasts could not be higher.

Buy or Rent Shoplifters
on DVD

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.