Ewan Gleadow

Review – Shoplifters

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The work of director Hirokazu Kore-eda is always a welcome and enjoyable experience. After how much I enjoyed Like Father, Like Son, I thought it would only make sense to watch through his most popular piece of work, the Academy Award nominated ShopliftersA film held in truly high regard considering its realism and desperation, its characters slowly spiralling into uncontrollable chaos. It’s a real treat to watch, but something is certainly missing from the newest feature film of Kore-eda. 

With Kore-eda behind the camera, it’s no surprise that a few of his frequent collaborators receive leading roles in this family driven drama piece. With his impressive work in Like Father, Like Son, it’s no surprise that Lily Franky is given the leading role of Osamu Shibata, a father struggling to keep his family together as they live and blend between the poverty line. I enjoy films that, rather than introducing and building their characters, falsify a foundation. We can feel instantly attached to Shibata’s family through experiences of our own, if we have ever experienced what he and his family may be going through. There’s already a groundwork that isn’t seen, and the truly tremendous performances build spectacularly well throughout. 

Kirin Kiki, another strong Kore-eda collaborator also provides us with a great performance. Her role is well rounded, providing advice and a strong figurehead to a family without a hope of surviving on their own. She has a crucial part in the family, and as such receives a fair few enjoyable pieces of dialogue. Kiki manages to flourish, again under the strong direction of Kore-eda. But good performances can only take us so far. 

For the biggest problem with Shoplifters is that, although its performances are worthy of acclaim and its direction is truly mesmerising, with a blend between simple and effective storytelling in play, it just isn’t very interesting. We follow a family that struggle to get by, that’s all we have to go on and it plays out about as well as you’d expect. Kore-eda has the ability to craft some truly interesting pieces of film, however I can’t help but feel that Shoplifters pales in comparison to that of his other works. 

A film that relies on its characters, yet doesn’t make them interesting enough to stay attached to for very long will begin to shut down rather close to the end of the film. It’s not that I didn’t care what’d happened by the end, but there was certainly nothing keeping me from ending my viewing short either. A real shame this one, especially since I was expecting so much from a great director.