Rated R for some sex stuff. One of the women in the movie is a kind-of prostitute? I don't know how to word it, but she does sexual acts for money. Although there's no nudity in this sequence, it feels pretty graphic. Oddly enough, the scene that has nudity feels far more innocent. I mean, it's not. But it feels that way. There's probably some language. Nothing really jumped on my radar. For an R-rated movie that deserves to be R-rated, the tone of the movie seems pretty wholesome. R.
DIRECTOR: Hirokazu Koreeda
Maybe I'm just a contrarian. Maybe I like liking the movies that don't get the Best Picture nod. A student of mine recommended this movie out of the bunch for the Academy Awards and, boy, was she right. This movie is gorgeous and challenging. It is inspiring in a weird way. It made me think and it doesn't take a safe position. The performances are absolutely beautiful and the film looks stunning. Too bad that Roma is going to win.
I'm going to say the only negative thing I have about the whole thing first because I'm going to gush about this film. The turn is weirdly satisfying, but it is confusing as get out. I don't think it makes a lick of sense and I'm still trying to piece the end together. When the characters are all in the police station (it's in the trailer), all of the secrets are revealed. The one that involves the rich daughter makes no sense whatsoever to me. Aki's involvement with the family confuses me more than anything else. There's this moment where she's completely flummoxed by the truth and I don't know exactly why. I tried talking about this with my student. She didn't get it. I tried Googling it. I can't really find an answer because I don't think I'm looking in the right places. Honestly, if you know the answer to this, please comment below. I really want to know how this works because this is the one hangup in a nearly perfect movie and I just need to have that level of peace and support. Aki's relationship to the rest of the family might be an example of a slightly larger problem with the film, which I honestly don't really mind. The movie hinges on being really cryptic. It keeps throwing these little clues around and I'm not going to be cryptic. SPOILER ALERT SIMPLY BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE ARE HARDCORE ABOUT THEIR SPOILERS: It seems pretty obvious from about ten minutes in that many of the people aren't biologically related. There are little comments and little nods that they biologically aren't a family, but there still is a vibe of mystery about how they actually know each other. Is it because Koreeda wants to have that explosive revelation towards the end of the film? I have to think it is. I wonder if the movie would still work as well as it did if we knew outright what everyone meant to each other. I mean, it is pretty satisfying having that infodump that explains every cryptic conversation that the characters had been having since the beginning of the movie. But it also seems to be pulling away from the vulnerability of the piece as a whole. The movie is so vulnerable that I'm surprised that it is guarded with its secrets. I think that the story has merit without the twists and turns. But again, I'm screaming at a wall because I like the format of the movie as it is right now.
If I told you the theme right now, you would say that message is pretty heavy-handed. It also seems like something that a former co-worker with whom you never really got along with would post on her Facebook page. It seems so corny. But when you watch the movie, it never really feels like that. Instead, the message of the movie is "of course! Why doesn't everyone do this?" Okay, I never want to be part of the family. I'm going to verbalize it and I have given enough lead in. Be aware, the message is more subtle. "You can choose your family." I've always had a pretty great relationship with my family. It hasn't always been perfect, but I also acknowledge that people out there are toxic. Koreeda does something really interesting with the molding of the characters. These people seem to be constantly using each other. From an outside perspective, it looks like they don't care about each other beyond what they get from one another. But the second you get to know any of these characters, we realize that they seem to love each other completely. The way that this is achieved is through the use of an unspoken code. One of the Hierarchy of Needs is that survival always comes before love. Love is actually a luxury on the grand scheme of things. But Shoplifters somehow manages to show how both of these abstract concepts can become a priority. I'm thinking of the other Japanese classic, The Lower Depths. I know that it is a Russian classic first and that it was also a French classic. I'm just making the comparison to Shoplifters. Get off my back. The Lower Depths stresses the misery of poverty. It shows all of these people treating each other terribly because poverty makes us do terrible things. There are elements of The Lower Depths in Shoplifters. The family is willing to abandon each other if absolutely necessary, but they do help each other survive throughout. The dynamics of these people is fantastic. It's a fairly large cast in the grand scheme of things, but each character is completely developed. There's this idea that I adore in the story that I'm still kind of unpacking. I like how Osamu wants to be called "Dad", but Nobuya doesn't. It is this odd family dynamic where no one is really on the same page, but there isn't fighting. Rather, the entire environment is one of gratitude. These kids learn these skills that most people would consider abhorrent. But they seem closer bonded than anyone else. When Yuri / Juri is added to the family, we can understand the addition. It actually seems really natural. Mind you, if that happened to our family, I would think of a dozen things to do. But their family, this is the only thing that really makes sense. It's very organic and gorgeous. These people are full of love and it's interesting.
The split between Osamu and his son is particularly interesting. It kind of has to happen to create a bit of conflict, but I like it regardless. Part of me, a guy who absolutely adores rules, is a little concerned about the moral relativism that's going on in this movie. The movie addresses this head on. I like the fact that this movie never really seems all that sappy. These people lead kind of terrible lives. Yes, they care for each other and that is enviable. But it isn't an easy answer. There's nothing Hallmark about this. One of the members of the family kind of prostitutes herself. I know that there's a term for what she is doing and I'm not quite sure what the proper term is. But she can only find a relationship with someone through this method. She has this broken idea of what love is. Some of it is right. She sees wounded as an attractive property. But there isn't the split that comes with traditional empathy. Instead, she thinks that relationships are about one person taking care of a weaker person. It's romantic and tragic and all screwed up at the same time. The very nature of stealing is a crime. They find it to be a game or a way of life throughout the story. But Shota is growing up throughout the story. The beginning of the movie has Shota living this lifestyle as if it normal. But he is the character that grows the most throughout. His form of puberty is realizing that his life is not normal. He starts questioning his own morality. Instead of having that form of rebellion that questions why things are right, he starts questioning why things are wrong. With Shoplifters, there's a very clear delineation that the actions of the family are a little bit off. Again, the movie doesn't hit this idea home with a sledgehammer. Rather, it slowly builds to what it needs to be. Shota doesn't really seem to hate his father, but he realizes that adults are flawed as well. Osamu, to people who are well adjusted, is well-intentioned but criminally flawed. He's very lovable, but he also is ambitionless and justifies every action that may be considered morally questionable. Shota starts to see this character the way we do. But the way the movie ends is wonderful. Like a family, the characters evolve into something that is beyond the premise of the movie. People grow and grow up. Some people stay stagnant. The line at the end of the film isn't exactly clear. Instead, we get this idea that people are multifaceted. Osamu and his family aren't one thing. The police aren't one thing. Some people are stuck in their ways. Some of the members of the family live a tragic life and that may never change. But people try their best in a complicated world and that's interesting.
I adored this film. I want to watch it again because I know that there are things that I am missing. The movie isn't overly complicated, with the exception of one vital scene. But I also know that there's a lot going on between the characters. I'm sure that there is more to unpack knowing what I know about the characters. There has to be some shading that I never picked up on the first time. I highly recommend this film because it might be one of my favorite movies of 2018.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.