Shoplifters (4 stars)


A family of thieves take in a young girl they find on the street in Hirokazu Kore-eda's warm character drama

How do people whom society has deemed insignificant forge a sense of their own value? That's the central concern of this latest work by the Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-eda, already one of the most acclaimed of his busy and feted career. Gorgeous to look at, and performed with that disquieting level of skill that makes it hard to believe that one is watching actors and not real people, it has 'film festival award-winner' written all over it — and duly laid claim to the daddy of them all, the Palme d'Or, back in May. But this isn't rarefied or smug: not only is it warmly accessible thanks to the pulsing humanity of its performances, but its story goes far beyond tender-hearted social realism into darker and more morally challenging territory.

We join Osamu (played by the terrific Lily Franky) as he's collaborating with pre-teen Shota (a beautiful performance by Jyo Kairi) on one of the shoplifting jaunts that keeps their household going. The motley crew with whom they share their dilapidated digs — a family in all but blood — expands by one when Osamu and Shota meet a little girl they judge will be better off with them. For while their group may be low on material resources, it is rich in warmth, resilience and ways around life's obstacles – at least until things take a trickier turn.

The extent to which Kore-eda's film aestheticises what is shows can be discomfiting: as the content becomes more testing, it can feel odd to be basking in painterly, perfectly lit compositions. But it's a film about love, in the end; and the loving attention to visual detail is of a piece with the steadfast attention to intricacies of character and feeling.

Limited release from Fri 23 Nov


  • 4 stars
  • 2018
  • Japan
  • 2h 1min
  • Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda
  • Cast: Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Sakura Andô
  • UK release: 23 November 2018

A family in Tokyo lives by shoplifting, and then Osamu (Franky) and Shota (Kairi) bring home a little girl who seems to be homeless. The humanity of the performances and the loving attention to visual detail are of a piece in what’s ultimately a film about love.