Shoplifters Movie Review
Shoplifters is like a fuzzy kitten with anger issues. It lulls you into a false sense of comfort—oh, isn’t this nice? It’s so soft and sweet and loving!—and then pounces, razor blades out, ready to rip your heart out.
This wonderful little drama is about a ragtag family who live in poverty, relying on odd jobs and thievery to make ends meet. They nonetheless are good-natured and care for one another. When they find a scared young girl one day, they take her in to raise as their own, suspecting her real parents were cruel to her.
Shoplifters isn’t the kind of movie I should like. Unassuming, quaint, and heartwarming are not the kind of adjectives that typically capture my attention, and yet all describe this little film, one that seems to be about so little until it isn’t at all.
Good performances all around and solid writing make it a movie that keeps you engaged even if for most of its runtime it is only moderately interesting, at least in terms of power or emotion. It just hums along to its own tune, seemingly destined to end at some point with nothing much to say other than that poor people can be nice and well meaning, too.
Of course, that’s not what Shoplifters is about. Writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda unleashes his razor-blade cat assassin in the film’s third act, slashing at your heartstrings with deep, powerful strokes. The ending comes out of nowhere and yet it is the inevitable conclusion to the story, an immensely satisfying if utterly saddening finale. I don’t cry at movies, but the film’s final moment brought me close.
I’ve already used the word “unassuming” once in this review, but I’ll use it again as it sums up Shoplifters perfectly: it is unassuming until it isn’t, a perfectly imperfectly balanced drama that bides its time until that furry, big-eyed creature lunges at you with its claws, sinking its hooks deep into you.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.