Tolstoy got it wrong and Shoplifters gets it right. All happy families are not the same. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s enchanting, subversive masterpiece takes on family values and bourgeois pieties through a Japanese crime family that is not what it seems.
For all its gentle groundedness, a quality that suffuses much of Kore-eda’s work, Shoplifters strenuously resists romanticizing its main characters. Its compassion is more convincing for it. So is its brilliance.
Some of the credit must go to the stellar casting and performances. It’s difficult to single out one of the six actors in this alternative family unit as it’s a true ensemble display. But Kore-eda’s deft command of tone is a key factor too.