For a variety of reasons, the concept of family has been changing over the past 30 years in Japan, where the rate of marriages and births has dropped to a record low. One in four men is likely to remain a lifelong bachelor, while one in seven women will remain single. Among those who do get married, economic constraints and limited access to child care prevent many from having children.
Shifts in Japanese society have been attributed to the 10-year recession the country suffered in the 1990s, followed by a recovery marked by decreased corporate spending, hiring cuts and increased demand for part-time workers. The broader recovery in recent years has primarily benefited those on the favored side of the country’s widening wealth gap.
Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda’s career parallels his country’s economic trajectory, taking up aspects of the great recession and the severe social impact of a stalled recovery. His latest film, “Shoplifters,” about a different kind of family, unrelated by blood, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and is Japan’s submission to the 2019 Oscars.
“I am interested in the contemporary family. But I don’t know if I’m concerned about the state of the contemporary Japanese family,” Kore-eda said during a recent press tour in Los Angeles. Sitting in a quiet suite in West Hollywood’s London Hotel, he reflected, “I would say it’s much more personal for me.”
The new film stars Kore-eda regulars like Kirin Kiki, who has appeared in six of his films, and four-time collaborator Lily Franky. Together, they anchor a cast of varying ages and experience levels portraying a clan of individuals with dubious pasts joined as an ad-hoc family. They survive through methods such as shoplifting, showcased in the film’s compelling opening sequence, as Osamu (Franky) and his boy Shota (Jyo Kairi) wind through a market, surreptitiously pinching goods along the way.
Added to their haul, as they make their way home, is a little girl who appears lost in the street. Rather than leave her under a bush for the night, they take her with them. When they later discover she is an unwanted child who might possibly face physical abuse, they decide to keep her. It’s not kidnapping if they don’t ask for ransom, reasons Nobuyo (Ando Sakura).Full review at TRUTH DIG