SHOPLIFTERS (Manbiki kazoku)


MONDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2018 -- Hirokazu Koreeda's latest film takes us from the world a big-time heists into the less glamorous world of petty theft and shoplifting in Tokyo with a strange sense of honor among thieves. So honorable you almost forget they are crooks.


The story revolves around Osamu Shibata (Lily Franky) and his small family. Neither he nor is wife Nobouyo (Sakura Ando) earn enough to make ends meet in expensive Tokyo, so they supplement their income by stealing from the various vendors in their neighborhood. His usual partner in crime is his son Shota (Jyo Kairi); they have a nifty signal system.


They have a teenage daughter, Aki (Mayu Matsuouka), but she's pretty much into her own thing. Sakura's grandmother lives with them but us very aloof. Their world is interrupted by a neighborhood girl named Yuri whom they find hiding outside their home in the cold.

Shota brings her in and the family immediately feeds her and warms her up. When her parents don't come around they keep her - once they realize she's been abused. Aki adapts her as a baby sister and Shota starts teaching her the ropes on shoplifting.


The Shibata's never consider turning her in even after the news of her disappearance comes on; she's having a good time with them. Meanwhile, we learn more about their financial shape and how grandma fits in. But the majority of the story revolves around the family bonding.


That is until everything blows apart when Shota is caught stealing to protect her. The story takes an abrupt left turn and we find out there is even more to the Shibata's than we see.


The performances are excellent, the direction adept and the cinematography clean as it shows us the murkier side of Tokyo.


"SHOPLIFTERS (Manbiki kazoku)" is so good it will easily contend for everyone's best foreign language film. Hirokazu Koreeda presents storytelling at its best.   -- GRADE A --   GEOFF BURTON