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TIFF Review: Shoplifters

A physically abused child is adopted into a makeshift family of petty criminals.

A middle-aged man works in professional tandem with a young boy to shoplift goods; afterwards, they encounter an abused child who is taken home with them.  The altruistic action has repercussions that threaten the existence of the makeshift family as the motives and backgrounds of the various characters are called into question.

The role of Osamu (Lily Franky) can be seen as the kinder and gentler version of Fagin from Oliver Twist.   There is sweetness in the thievery as the group dynamic is one of warmth and love.  The performances are uniformly strong with the children portrayed by Kairi Jyo and Miyu Sasaki having a believable onscreen chemistry with the former acting like a protective brother.  The plot is not as important as the characters which is made more effective by having a small cast.

To the credit of filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda actions do have consequences and in doing so he calls into question what defines a family: blood or relationships?  It is a devastating portrait of a social decay which causes audience members to rethink their first impressions.  The cinematography is done in a documentary style which adds to the naturalism and lets the actors take centre stage.

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Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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