Postechian’s Pick: Shoplifters
Postechian’s Pick: Shoplifters
  • Reporter Song Geun-seok
  • 승인 2022.05.02 22:59
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▲Shoplifters (2018)
▲Shoplifters (2018)

Shoplifters (2018) is a Japanese film about a special family who lives in severe poverty. The story unfolds as the family encounters a young girl Yuri, whom the family brings home. The film has won more than 30 awards including Palme d’Or from the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

In Tokyo, there is a special family: Shota, a young boy who routinely shoplifts; Osamu, a day laborer who also shoplifts on his way home; Nobuyo, the wife of Osamu; Aki, who works at a hostess club; Hatsue, the house owner who receives a pension from her dead husband. Interestingly, no member of the family is biologically related.
One day, Shota and Osamu encounter Yuri, a young girl from the neighborhood crouching down on an apartment balcony. Shota and Osamu bring her home for dinner, and later find out that she has been abused. They choose not to return her home.
Yuri establishes a good relationship with the family. Shota teaches Yuri how to steal but feels reluctant when Osamu tells him to consider her as his new sister. The family finds out that the police are after the missing case of Yuri, so they decide to change her appearance by cutting her hair, burning her clothes, and giving her a new name, Lin.
One day, Osamu steals a purse by breaking the windows of a car, which makes Shota feel uneasy. His guilt for stealing is magnified by the fact that he taught Yuri how to steal. Later, he interrupts Yuri’s theft by stealing a fruit right in front of the shopkeeper. While running away, he jumps over a bridge and breaks his leg.
Shota is hospitalized and the police interrogates Osamu to check Shota’s legal guardians. To escape from the hospital, the family tries to run away but are caught by the police. The police finds out that the family was taking care of Yuri, Hatsue is dead, and that Osamu and Nobuyo committed murder in the past. Nobuyo is imprisoned, and Shota and Yuri return to their original homes where they are again neglected and abused. 

Shoplifters (2018) emphasizes the theme of “family.” The family in the film is somewhat distant from the common family we know. Not only are the members biologically unrelated, but they also all come from different backgrounds. However, one can see that every member struggles to lift the family. Shota shoplifts to earn a living, and Nobuyo sacrifices to save other members. One may believe that the way they share emotions is more dramatic than what a true family does. Although they were not a family in legal terms and disbanded at the end of the film, they shared a bond stronger than a real family.
Additionally, the concept of “fake” is displayed throughout the movie. In fact, every member is living a lie in some way: Hatsue lies that she lives alone; Osamu and Nobuyo use pseudonyms and pretend to be a married couple; Aki uses a fake ID to make love at a club. Nonetheless, unlike their fake identities, they do not share fake emotions. The couple shares true love, and Aki finds a man that she loves sincerely. Despite being built on falsehood, the family shared sincere emotions and bonded as a true family.
Overall, Shoplifters continuously questions the audience: “What does true family mean?”