See this Cannes winner: Shoplifters

Jan 5, 2019

A small giant of unassuming filmmakimg: a surefire nominee for Oscar.


Grade: A

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda (Like Father, Like Son)

Screenplay: Kore-eda

Cast: Lily Franky (Devil’s Path), Sakura Ando (100 Yen Love)

Rating: R

Runtime: 2 hr 1 min

By: John DeSando

Hatsue Shibata: I was sure she'd want to go home.

Nobuyo Shibata: Do you think she... chose us?

Hatsue Shibata: Usually you can't choose your own parents.

Nobuyo Shibata: But then, maybe it's stronger when you choose them yourself.

After these demanding holidays, consider what “family” means. Regardless of your definition, Hirokazu Kore-eda’ s Shoplifters will help define at least “extended family.” This Japanese dramedy defines love as a central ingredient of family, despite the fragmented, sometimes tumultuous little world of adults and kids occupying a small Japanese-style home, where most of what you see strewn around has been stolen from unsuspecting merchants and naifs prone to believing grifters.

Despite the formal nature of the film, romance is tucked away in heretofore unsuspecting corners such as everyone’s love for and dependence on "Grandma” (Kirin Kiki), like others in this family not blood related but bound by affection and her needs to be fulfilled through the small community. After Grandma’s support, the other major source of funds appears to be outright shoplifting, facilitated by children savvy and innocent enough to win our hearts and never lose them.

Is this story funny? Yes. Is it eventually tragic? Yes. Do we love the characters anyway? Yes. Will this small film, winner of the Cannes’ Palm d’Or, give jitters to the accepted foreign language Oscar competitors like Roma? Yes.

Should you see it with your family and expand your understanding of what family means? A resounding Yes!

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at