Shoplifters Movie Review: Strangely uplifting!

Updated: Jul 06, 2019, 07:14 IST | Mayank Shekhar

This is the sort of film, movie-buffs line up outside restricted screenings for hours, at major festivals. It's playing at a regular theatre near you, Do show up, or at least don't complain then that it's just always the same old Marvel type stuff.

Shoplifters Movie Review: Strangely uplifting!
Shoplifters

Shoplifters
U/A: Drama
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Actors: Lily Franky, Sakura Ando
Rating:Rating

Honesty and compassion cut through the heart of this film. It is, on the face of it, about a supposedly dysfunctional family, eking out a living in the margins of society. And then it turns out that the folk in the film do not even constitute a family — then, what does?

As in, what is a family? Mere by-product of biology, where constituents essentially get together, through accidents of birth, that none has a choice over anyway? We didn't really choose our parents. Neither did they pick us up from a human zoo; the various permutations in a gene pool being the luck of draw.

What if a family, for those without semblance of a "real" one, is basically those we share our lives with? That's the question at the core of this quasi-emotional drama. I say quasi, because the film is Japanese. And there is something so deeply introverted about oriental culture in general, that it takes you sometime to fully get drawn in. Shoplifters is about two hours, and some. Give it an hour for it to settle into your system. And quite a few hours thereafter, while you're still gently soaking it in!

This is such sharp contrast from Japanese mass-culture, which in all its OTT-ness — J-pop, manga, anime, the works — almost over-compensates for such personal subtleness. A reason Tokyo solo-trip remains on my bucket-list still is no thanks to the ultra-snazzy, surreal, shock-treatment of the city's underground scene from Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation (2003). Which is the polar opposite of, say, the calm, Japanese masterpiece, Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story (1953) — half a century apart.

Hirokazu Kore-eda's Shoplifters is a Tokyo story — melancholically capturing the metropolis' unglamorous lower-deck in strong, steady frames (Kondo Ryuto). It is centred on a brilliantly-cast motley-crew, living together in the equivalent of a slum, giving one the impression of any other poor family — grand-mom, husband, wife, her sister, and two children. Except, at the core, this is what a nomadic tribe would look like if they lived in modern times — they literally graze (or shoplift) at supermarkets for survival.

But this is not exactly a clichéd testament of human sorrows. For, no matter the circumstances, nobody is full-time unhappy for it all their lives. Why should they be in a film? Switch the parts, place them elsewhere, the story can remain the same. It could be as much a Bombay story. The characters are related to each other, not by blood, but by humanity, finding warmth in strangest places, which this film is essentially a piece on. And which binds most memorable movies I know anyway.

Shoplifters picked up Palme d'Or (Best Film) at Cannes in 2018. This is the sort of film, movie-buffs line up outside restricted screenings for hours, at major festivals. It's playing at a regular theatre near you (in Mumbai, and elsewhere in India). Do show up, or at least don't complain then that it's just always the same old Marvel type stuff — and that nothing great ever shows up at the cinemas here. It's here.

Watch Shoplifters Trailer

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