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2019 Film Reviews - 23: Shoplifters [dir. Hirokazu Koreeda; 2018]

It’s interesting to consider whether Japanese social-realist cinema is currently at the same stage as the kitchen sink dramas of 1960s Britain. As he did in Nobody Knows, director Hirokazu Koreeda certainly displays a commendable willingness to take the veil off the refined exterior of modern Japanese life with this tale of a poverty-stricken band of thieves who one day adopt a neglected child. But in the same way that some English movies from 50-odd years ago can come across as overly stylised or naïve - perhaps even twee - there’s a curious lack of real grit in Shoplifters, a determination to portray its characters and their lives with several punches pulled well back. Even the performances, watchable though they may be, display a self-conscious theatricality that seems designed to reassure audiences that, ultimately, all this is make-believe. Perhaps that’s what Japanese cinema-goers currently need in order to be able to access such dramas. If that’s the case, then hats off to Kor…

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