Beloved Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda recently turned his attentions and talents to the more pulpy courtroom drama “The Third Murder,” but he’s back in traditional form — that is, family-focused features that seesaw between comedy and drama with ease — with his Palme d’Or-winning “Shoplifters.” The film, starring Kore-eda regulars Lily Franky and Kiki Kirin, debuted at the French film festival in May, where it went on to pick up the fest’s highest honor and kicked off what could shape up to be a stellar awards season.
The proof is already in the pudding: After its Cannes premiere, the film become Kore-eda’s biggest box office hit in Japan, taking in around $40 million. In China, the film became the biggest Japanese live-action film the country has ever played, earning over $14 million at the box office. Earlier this season, Japan picked the film as its official contender for this year’s best foreign-language film race.
Like other Kore-eda hits like “Our Little Sister” and “Like Father, Like Son,” the film follows a family bound by both love and, well, other stuff. Kore-eda has always excelled at building big, bustling, believable families on screen that are both very relatable and beholden to strange circumstances. This time around, his characters are also shoplifters who steal their way through a city in hopes of surviving. Their situation is made all the more precarious when they informally adopt a young homeless girl with her own thievery skills.
In his glowing Cannes review, IndieWire’s David Erhlich wrote of the film that it “may lack the vanguard formal ambition of Kore-eda’s ‘Maborosi,’ or the soulful imagination of his monumental ‘After Life,’ but what it lacks in newness it makes up in raw humanity. Never preachy or resolute, this is a haunting film about abandoned people, and the beautiful things that are lost and found between them — it’s a film that asks its audience to reflect on where they belong, and on what belongs to them. You don’t get to choose your own family, but family is still a choice that you have to make over and over again, each and every day.”
Magnolia Pictures will release “Shoplifters” in theaters on November 23. Check out the first trailer for the film below.