Shoplifters

Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda

'Is it all about the money? What about love? Or relationships?' When the strands of those questions are pulled together in such a delightful manner as they are in Shoplifters, don't fret the questions; just savour the storytelling.

Shoplifters is a film that delves into lives where groups of people exist in cramped, dingy rooms or even narrow cupboards. It’s not a choice; it’s existence. Personal space is hard fought. No-one caught up in the circumstances knows anything else. They are places where granddaughters share a bed with their grandma.

These fringe dwellers only venture into the larger city to claim their pension or explore the spaces, whilst the city dwellers only venture out to the fringes to collect rent or travel in an emergency services vehicle. Even then, why incur the cost of calling for an ambulance if you already know the person is dead?

For Osamu (Lily Franky), shoplifting is viewed as a necessity in order to support his ‘family’ - i.e. the four people with whom he shares the occupancy. He has taught his adopted son, Shota (Kairi Jō), the tricks of the trade, because that's all he has known himself. There is nothing more to pass on.

When Osamu and Shota stumble across a young girl, Yuri (Miyu Sasak), who is seemingly abandoned in her flat, hungry, afraid, and with paper thin skin, they take her in for a meal. They discover the burn marks on her body and she becomes another member of this nuclear family.

Subtle hints as to the true nature of people’s backgrounds are dropped into the dialogue. As Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) curls up in bed, her grandmother, Hatsue (Kirin Kiki), asks, "What is wrong?" Aki asks her why she thinks that something is wrong. "Because your feet are colder than normal," is the perceptive response. With the fact that Aki is working in a peep room acting out the fantasies of hidden male observers, it’s a wonder that her whole body is not frozen.

Typically, it’s the grandmother who holds the unit together. When she dies, the unravelling begins.

In the final half-hour, the lives of the six protagonists are forever changed as past secrets are exhumed. The relationship between Osamu, his wife Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) and Shota is peeled away, allowing Ando to deliver an utterly captivating and emotion filled questioning of her own ability to act as a mother.

Written by Hirokazu Kore-eda and supported by three producers - Matsuzaki Kaoru, Yose Akihiko and Taguchi Hijiri - the film won the Palme d'Or in 2018, which was a fine way to remember Kirin Kiki, who passed away in 2018.

Ged Camera

Sorry To Bother You

Dir. Boots Riley

Irritating, isn't it, when your phone rings with an unknown or anonymous number? More often than not, somehow a sales company has gotten a hold of your details and wants to sell you something that you never knew you needed. Switch positions and think what it must be like for the person on the other end of the line, whose income is based upon the commission of any sales. This is the basis for writer Boots Riley's directorial debut.

Trying to cram several issues, each of which could easily occupy its own film, into 111 minutes seldom works as a coherent piece. Sorry To Bother You falls foul of this, but it does highlight the fertile and imaginative mind of Boots Riley, its director.

Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is a worker at a call centre who got the job by showing his initiative and ability to lie, qualities that some might say are ideal for a cold calling enterprise.

There is a delicious interplay between a co-worker (Danny Glover) and Cass about the art of distance selling, where no-one knows what you look like. He tells Cass, who is black, to "use your white man’s voice" over the phone. At that point, racial commentary seems likely, but that's not quite how the narrative develops.

A parallel theme highlights Cass’s relationship with his girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), an artist struggling to get her voice heard whilst remaining true to her roots. When Cass improves his ‘white man’s voice’ and wants the keys to the gold plated toilets as the money rolls in, his evolution to champagne socialist familiar to John Cooper Clarke - "It's my money and I'm not sharing it” – divides the couple and sets up a key question: should you stay true to you beliefs or move on and up, irrespective of the emotional cost?

Another captivating scene is between Cass and his cousin, Salvador (Jermane Fowler), during a workplace strike. Whilst Cass is trying to pass through the picket line that includes Salvador, the inevitable confrontation showcases verbal dexterity from both sides. They try to outdo each other with insults decorated as compliments, creating an almost Wildean effect.

The film’s sharp detour into sci-fi, horror and fantasy is just bemusing and led to at least two people walking out of the cinema.

Riley has delivered plenty of ideas and a lovely series of visual sketches, typified in the scene where Cass "phone called in" to his targets. Rather than a split screen arrangement, Cass appears in the space next to them creating a novel approach to ‘face timing’, irrespective of what they are doing with their partner. But hopefully his future ideas can be channelled into one film at a time.

Ged Camera