December 1, 2018 – A pseudo-family of small-time shoplifters are as emotionally rich as they are materially poor in this modern day Oliver Twist-like tale set in the slums of Tokyo. In this story the character of Fagan (Osamu Shibata, played by Lily Franky) is a benevolent soul, rather than a harsh taskmaster.
Osamu Shibata takes in children off the streets and teaches them to shoplift food and other items. He is part of an unusual household of outcasts and misfits, that together make up a family, even if most of them are not related to each other. They live on the outskirts of society, surviving on pensions, jobs, part-time work and shoplifting. They are all crammed into a small house, with Grandma, Hatsue Shibata (played by Kirin Kiki) who lives on a pension, and some mysterious payments from the family of her late husband.
Others in the household include Osamu's wife, Nobuyo (played by Sakura Andō) who works as a part-time cleaner, their daughter, Aki Shibata (Mayu Matsuoka) who works in a seedy sex show parlor, their young son, Shota Shibata (played by Jyo Kairi). Yet another is added to this crowded household when tiny Yuri (played by Miyu Sasaki) is found at night playing alone in the cold, with burns and scars on her arms. She is taken in and becomes part of the extended family.
In one scene, grandma takes Yuri to a store to buy her some clothes. Yuri doesn't like one dress and says so. She asks if she will be beaten for expressing her opinion when she gets home. When given the choice of staying with the small time crooks, or going back to live with her real parents (who don't bother filing a missing child report) she chooses to stay with the Shibata clan, and agrees to change her name to Lin.
Late in the film the real identities of the characters is revealed (Shibata is not the real name of some characters) and the truth is revealed about their often checkered, sometimes tragic, past activities. This last part of the film is a slow, awkward narrative construction, to say the least, since it happens in a series of interviews. The emotional end to the film helps to make up for this.
In another emotional scene, grandma watches her clan at the beach. She has her own secrets, manipulating others so she won't die alone. As she watches her “family” play on the beach, she says “thank you” quietly to the heavens. This movie makes a persuasive argument that it is love, not genetics, that makes a family. This film rates a B.
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