Shoplifters (2018) Review – To Justify or Not to Justify

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Film director Hirokazu Koreeda is often not interested in portraying the heroes of his films in melodramatic and poignant situations, and instead excels at capturing poetic elements and hidden meanings of everyday life. That’s the case in Shoplifters, a movie that portrays the warm image of a makeshift family living in poverty, and constantly stealing in order to make ends meet, yet they are closely knit and sympathetic, even though they are not related to each other, and are not aware of the circumstances that led them to resort to such a life.

Shoplifters – The Ghost of A Family

The family members live together in a cramped house and struggle for space, yet they come together every day for dinner, help each other, play and go to the beach. It looks nice at first, and the viewer may already be familiar with many similar works that display unexpected feelings of friendship between strangers, but for some reason, these scenes that the spectator may have seen before do not go as expected, and things do not end happily in the way this family aspires them to be. On the contrary, the viewer begins to notice the flaws of the false painting that the family is trying to draw little by little in the form of simple scenes with hidden and resonant meanings.

The director’s precise and complex narration begins to unfold with time, and as the film approaches its climax, the hidden baggage and secrets gush out one after the other. Each of them touches an important and sensitive chord in the life of a modern civilized society. The real problem presented by Shoplifters is not the social dilemmas that led to the creation of such an unusual family. Rather, the story penetrates the hearts of the members of this family and depicts their ability to justify all the mistakes they make and how they deliberty avoid facing the truth of their actions.

Shoplifters – The Mirror of the Soul

In an article called To Justify or Not to Justify by Dr. Stephen Stosny, he talks about this type of character and the urge to justify in general. It is explained how everyone has been treated unfairly at some point, but they have also treated others unfairly. We are very sensitive to the first kind, and completely oblivious to the second, which makes it difficult to see the truth with a perspective close to objectivity and accuracy. The article goes in-depth about the reasons and factors people might exhibit such behavior, and many of them resonated with me through watching this movie.

In a heartbreaking and impactful scene, the mother is asked about the reasons why she did so many wrong things over the course of the film, and the viewer feels for the first time that she is standing in front of the mirror and confronting herself who was involuntarily looking for evidence to confirm her assumptions, while canceling evidence that contradicts her thoughts. And as the article says, the main goal of this act is to justify human feelings and previous experiences for the person more than others, which ultimately shows that this behavior or emotion is not good for us, otherwise we will not have to justify it. This puts the mother in terrible silence after she has absorbed the truth of what she has done, rather than blaming society and the pain of the past.

Shoplifters is an excellent multi-layered film that deals with the moral ambiguity of humans in a magnificent way. It also raises many questions, and the ending does not provide answers about the fate of one of the central characters, making it an excellent topic for discussion.

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