Hirokazu Kore-eda returns to the family drama in his Palme D’or-winning Shoplifters, crafting a graceful melodrama about the human contradictions of survival in indifferent societies. Once again the modern master looks at a family dynamic, and one that strays a outside of both the nuclear unit and socioeconomic demands of traditional society. Living in a tucked away shack in Tokyo, the Shibata family’s volatile existence is challenged further when they take in an abused toddler locked out of her home in the cold. Though they originally intend to host the young Yuri for only an evening, they decide to keep her when overhearing the full extent of her parents’ disregard.
What follows is a series of expertly structured and unexpected emotional landmines that keep its questioning of social ethics planted in their inherent humanity. That Kore-eda can do this so gently is part of what makes Shoplifters a masterpiece, what makes it sink into your heart with unassuming ease. Where his contemporaries want punishment and moroseness, he reaches for us to leave the theatre a little more thoughtful about the world around us.