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Laramie Movie Scope:
Shoplifters (Manbiki kazoku)

A twist on Oliver Twist

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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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.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2018 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]