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Stream of the Week

Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Broker, starring the iconic Song Kang-ho, was just selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, showing that he hasn’t lost a step when it comes to pulling at our heartstrings with themes of family, loss and identity. For this Stream of the Week, I’ve chosen his 2018 Palme d’Or-winning drama, which speaks to a lot of these same thematic interests, Shoplifters.

Kore-eda has said in an interview that he developed the story for Shoplifters when considering his earlier film, Like Father, Like Son, being particularly interested in what exactly ‘makes’ a family. This theme is definitely present, with captivating performances by Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Kairi Jō and Miyu Sasaki making it clear that while these characters don’t share a single drop of blood relation, the care and tenderness that they feel for one another is no different than any other family. Kore-eda also describes this as his ‘socially conscious’ film, so I don’t think we can talk about Shoplifters without talking about class society.

With this movie, Kore-eda was really trying to capture ‘the family within the society’ from a ‘wide point of view.’ I think this is a theme that’s rife with political commentary, particularly when you pair it with texts such as Engels’ Origin of the Family or Evelyn Reed’s Problems of Women’s Liberation, both of which situate the concept of family in modern society as an economic unit used to produce the next generation of workers. Kore-eda’s research was heavily shaped by the Japanese Recession, particularly by media reports of how so many people could only survive by shoplifting, so I would argue at its heart, this film is examining what it means to really connect with people in a truly familial and community-based way, not worried about profit but instead focused on surviving and caring for one another, and how that kind of relationship can’t be tolerated by the state, because it disrupts business as usual—hence the film’s gut-punch of an ending.

While it may not be the most comfortable watch, interacting with themes of child abuse/neglect, extreme poverty etc., this is perhaps one of the most important movies you could watch right now, as so many have been financially affected by the pandemic and we’re all trying to figure out how to re-connect with each other and ourselves. Shoplifters is now streaming for free on TUBI, watch it while you can!


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