There is a time in everyone's life where they are faced with an ethical dilemma. It's the weighing of the different ethical values that ultimately determines the correct decision to be made.
Shoplifters is a film about a Japanese family who face many ethical dilemmas and writer/director Hirokazu Kore-eda takes us on an emotional roller coaster of weighing one ethic against another, right versus wrong, and always questioning the emotional chaos.
Hats off to Powell River Film Festival for bringing such a great story to our town. From the opening scene to the final credits our hearts go out to the Shibata family and their kids as they deal with their daily life of poverty, survival and life-changing choices.
The film opens up with a scene that captivates us from the start. With the precision of a SWAT team, a father and his son enter a grocery store and, through hand signals, shoplift a bunch of groceries. As they are celebrating their success, our hearts go out to them because we see a bond of love, friendship and camaraderie.
Our ethical antennae start to wake up as we question the right and wrong of their actions. Even though the shoplifting theme is a strong plot, it is only a subplot to the main story about this family and how they take in a little girl from the streets. Life seems to be just fine as we share the warmth of a family full of laughter and happiness, trials and tribulations, until the wheels begin to come off.
Kore-eda sets us up in a comfort zone only to strip it away one layer at a time. He introduces twists and turns in the story that forces us back into examining the ethics and morality of the family's choices.
Kore-eda has written a beautifully well-crafted multidimensional story. His direction of the actors and the camera captivates the viewer and the performances by the father, Lily Franky, and the boy, Jyo Kairi, are compelling to watch.
We are fortunate to be invited into seeing a slice of Japanese life on the streets of Tokyo from a safe but precarious perch
An Oscar nominee for best foreign language film, Shoplifters is a strong contender in any awards category and well worth the time to see. For these reasons I give Shoplifters four out of five tugboats.
Shoplifters is playing during the Powell River Film Festival at 7 pm on Saturday, February 9, at the Patricia Theatre.
Stephen J. Miller is a producer and creative writer in feature films and television, and past owner of repertoire movie theatres.