Hirokazu Kore-eda is scoring some of the strongest reviews of his career with Shoplifters, his Cannes competition entry this year. The Japanese director, who is known for such emotionally engaging dramas as Nobody Knows (2004), Still Walking (2008), and Like Father, Like Son (2013), returns to themes of domestic life with his latest, which centers on an ad hoc family struggling to make ends meet despite both parents’ full-time jobs and various and sundry other sources of income, including, of course, the titular crime.
IndieWire’s David Ehrlich captures the general tenor of the critical reception when he argues that Shoplifters is “among the very best of the writer-director’s delicate, deceptive, and profoundly moving dramas about the forces that hold a family together (or don’t). . . . Gingerly recovering from an ill-advised foray into genre fare, Kore-eda returns to the well-shaded humanism that has established him as one of the most potent filmmakers of the last twenty-five years, and also—for that matter—to the aching parental anxieties that have often inspired people to think of him as Ozu’s heir.”
We should add here that, in his review for the Guardian, Peter Bradshaw points out that when he interviewed Kore-eda in 2015, “he told me that the director he believes he resembles is not Ozu, but the more sentimental and populist Naruse.” That said, Bradshaw finds Shoplifters to be “shrewd, realistic, [and] as clear and untroubled as a glass of cold water.”
The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin notes that, while Shoplifters sees Kore-eda returning “to the questions of survival on society’s margins and the nature and durability of family bonds,” this time around “these themes take some thrillingly unexpected turns.”
Variety’s Maggie Lee reserves special praise for cinematographer Ryuoto Kondo, “renowned for his work with Daihachi Yoshida and Nobuhiro Yamashita,” and Kore-eda’s own editing, which “maintains a brisker, breezier pace than his last few works.”