Synopsis: Loving and showing it those we love are two different things. Love come from inside and is natural, but the way we show it to others is important, because if one is clumsy and/or violent the love he/she feels may turn it into a destructive weapon. “Shoplifters” proves it.
This film is about relationships that have been developed between those are have been pushed to the margins of the society. They all are a little bit forgotten and neglected by the wider society. Thrown out of the active society this group of people acts as a real functioning social element, but has a lot of issues when it comes to values and a healthy vision of world.
The film opens on a father and son shoplifting in a grocery store. They have got each other’s back and they are giving each other signals to steal food for the dinner. On their way home, they spot a young little girl out in the cold, who is cold and looks miserable. The father and his son invite the girl to their house. The little girl comes out of her house and goes with them. Once the burden of negligence and abuse against this girl become evident, the family decides to secretly adopt her. The family lives on the edge of poverty and they occasionally do minimum-wage jobs.
Hatsue Shibata, played by Kirin Kiki, is an elderly woman, whose son is Osamu Shibata, played by Lily Franky. Nobuyo Shibata, played by Sakura Ando, is Osamu’s wife. Aki Shibata, played by Mayu Matsuoka, is unrelated to Osamu and Nobuyo, but is the grandchild of Hatsue. Aki makes some money working in a striptease club and seems to want to move on to something else. The other child is Shota Shibata, played by Kairi Jō, who commits the most shoplifting for eating and selling for cash. The heart is the film is about the messiness of motivations, choices, character’s individual lives, faults and how these elements impact the whole family and those surrounding them. Yuri Hojo/Juri/Rin, played by Miyu Sasaki, is regularly left outside at night. The family decides to keep Yuri with them, because she is very often abused outside. Keeping Yuri is dangerous, becuase the authorities can qualify it as a kidnapping, but Nobuyo and Osamu think that it is not dangerous as long as they do not ask for a ransom. Osamu also thinks that stealing is OK if one doesn’t steal someone else’s property or steals items from a shop that doesn’t yet go bankrupt. This shows very well the clumsiness towards responsibilities that any individual should respect.
Family’s motivations are an inspiration to think about the social aspects of notions like poverty, violence, system of values etc. We are brought to think about humans who are thrown out to the outskirts of the society and form a semi-independently evolving micro-society with its own ways and views. This family does everything in its own clumsy way and which is directly caused by the conditions in which they live, but also by their system of values and priorities. For example, we see the family dining together in a very small room while their grandmother is cutting her toenails right in front of the table. She then throws her toenails right near the entryway. In parallel with this, all the family members are being attentive to their new family member, Yuri, and they discover while dining, that her body is covered by scars and bruises and the grandmother suggests that more attention is needed towards her. This scene shown perfectly the mix of clumsiness and love that this family represents.
In another scene, on the beach, the grandma Hatsue and Aki are looking at their family playing with the waves and being affectionate to each other. This is another scene where we see the love and the compassion they have for each other. Aki shares her ideas saying that she thinks that:”sometimes it is good to choose your family”. Hatsue looks at Aki and tells her:”Lady, when I look closely, you’re a good-looking woman”. When Aki moves on to join others playing with the waves, Hatsue looks at her legs and says:”Oh, look at all the age spots”, and stars covering them little by little by putting some sand on them. Then, Hatsue looks at her joyful family and whispers “Thank you” several times without them noticing her saying it.
Hatsue visits her husband’s son from his second marriage. This son regularly sends some money to Hatsue. The son and his wife are Aki’s biological parents and believe that Aki lives in Australia. Hatsue dies at home while sleeping and the family buries her without reporting anything to Hatsue’s son in order to continue receiving his money. This is a choice that shows the unusual values of the family. Additionally, when the father is asked if he is not ashamed to teach children shoplifting, he answers: “I don’y know anything else to teach them”. The father reproduces and teaches others to reproduce the social violence that he has been undergoing. When trying to understand “why” they do such things, it is vital to question the social conditioning that this family underwent as a whole.
The plot often questions the notions of “parent” and “parenting”. Giving birth to someone doesn’t make one a parent if the child is protected and cared for by someone else. Aki and Yuri share this particularity, because they both are cared for by someone else. The family doesn’t survive in its actual form and mainly because of its values and motivations. Shota is places in an orphanage, Nobuyo takes the blame and in jailed, the grandmother is dead and Yuri, the little girl, is returned to his biological family.