Manbiki kazoku (Shoplifters) – ***

Posted: May 1, 2019 in 2018, Drama, Japan, XXX

This movie starts with an older man learning a young boy some tricks to shoplift in a supermarket. On their way home, they find a small and hungry girl and decide to give her some food and some shelter. It’s very clear from the beginning: this isn’t the story of some crazy rich Asians. No, this is a story about how the poor survive in the economic wonder that is called Japan.

The aforementioned home has three more characters: a senior lady who seems to be the owner of the house. A middle aged woman who appears to be the wife/mother of the shoplifting father/son and a younger female who somehow seems to be the granddaughter of the older lady. It’s easy to assume the relationships between these characters, but there’s something off. 

The little girl doesn’t seem to want to return home and moreover, her new family discovers that she’s been abused. They could report it to the police, but they don’t. They could also inform her parents about her whereabouts, but they don’t. They decide to raise her as if she were their own child.

And then things get really weird an bizarre. Soon it turns out that this not an ordinary family and they live an existence full of lies. They steal and scam their way through life. But they seem to have found each other in this tiny apartment, which now six of them share.

A lot of questions arise and when you finally feel like you’re getting things explained, even more questions arise. This is very compelling and intriguing, but it does leave you with a bit of a wtf feeling at the end.

It’s clear to see why this is an award winning festival favorite. It doesn’t bore at all. The character introduction is great. The acting is good. It’s set in a world that is quite uncommon for Western eyes. It has multiple open endings. And it’s filmed in a detailed way. Some scenes are brilliant. The one minute reaction of the ‘mother’ in her interrogation about the reason for the ‘kidnapping’ of a child is pretty amazing. The shot in the end where the kid is on the bus is simple but perfect. The nude/passion scene feels so real, especially when it abruptly ends when the kids come home.

It’s quite a unique experience.

www.imdb.com/title/tt8075192

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