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Shoplifters: What is a Real Family?

Family is not chosen. But does giving birth to a child makes you a parent? What is more important: blood relations or spiritual connection and love? What is a real family? These are questions and ideas represented in the Closing Night Feature and Palme d’Or winner screening Shoplifters.

Directed and written by Hirokazu Koreeda and produced by Matsuzaki Kaoru, Yose Akihiko, and Taguchi Hijiri, the film’s story takes place in Tokyo, Japan and tells of Osamu Shibata, played by Lily Franky, and his family who live in poverty. Osamu’s family struggles to get by on his occasional employment, his wife’s low-income job and his grandmother’s pension. His son, Shota, played by Kairi Jō, also pitches in through shoplifting for groceries with Osamu. After one day of shoplifting they find a homeless girl, Yuri, played by Miyu Sasaki, and Osamu takes her home. Later, despite the impoverished conditions family live in, they adopt Yuri. Much of the film is devoted to presenting the family’s everyday difficulties and their ways of earning money. Despite the challenges they face, they still find time and energy for love, empathy and communication between each other. Eventually many of the family’s long-buried secrets come to light. At this moment, the family members stand before a choice: leave the family or stick together, forgiving all the past mistakes. The ultimate question of the film becomes: is blood truly thicker than water?

The world presented in Shoplifters is a tough place. That’s precisely why everyone needs a person to love and stick with to get through all the problems and challenges life throws in the way. The Shibata family are an example of a group of such persons who are ready to do everything for each other even though they are not a traditional family. When watching the final film of the 18th Annual New Hampshire Film Festival, the audience is left with a touching depiction of what a real family is and how important it is to love each other.

By Nikita Serdiuk