By Nevin Ulusoy

Family, the smallest community of the society, in fact, the society consists of families. Family, surrounded with a golden mist, the source of our lives, joys and sorrows. What we have deep down, all the colours of the beginning of our characters are all shaped in our families. Most films and books try to strenghten ties of families, telling us stories of how the family is the most important thing in our lives whatever happens in a family. This “whatever” has more than it seems at the first look actually and it has many dark parts in it. Famous Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda takes the business of family very seriously and asks us to have a wider look at it in his great film “Shoplifters.”

The world, whether it is a lovely place or a region of impending darkness, it all depends on our hearts and it is the family that gives us this feeling deep down.

“Shoplifters” was directed in 2018. It was also written and edited by the director. The film was very successful in Japan, both commercially and critically. In Cannes Film Festival it was the winner of Palme d’or. It was also nominated for Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. Lily Franky, Sakuro Ando, Kirin Kiki, Mayu Matsuoka, Jyo Kairi and Miyu Sasaki acted in the film. We have a very poor family and they try to go on with their lives by shoplifting. The father says the products in shops do not belong to anybody, so they can take them. The father and the son come across a little girl, sitting outside, all alone in the cold. They decide to take her with them. The mother and the grandmother are not very happy at first, there are already lots of people at home, but they accept her to their table, such a tiny, lovely thing. There is also an aunt, the mother’s stepsister. There are lots of wounds on her hands and arms, also burn scars. She says she fell down, but it is easy to see that it is not true. When they want to take her back, they hear sounds of fight, and a woman being beaten. We hear her shouting she did not want the child to the man, so they just cannot leave her there.

We see them every evening, gathered around the little table, in this tiny “house”, having their supper, helping the little girl, talking cheerfully and we see with our eyes, hear with our ears what a “family” is. We feel the warm atmosphere, the cosiness and there is bliss in the air. The mother hugs the girl, takes her on her lap and cherishes her so tightly and we hear her saying not to believe them when they tell her they loved her if they beat her. People who love hug as tightly as possible in her opinion. When they take her shopping, she does not want the new clothes and she asks the mother if she is not going to beat her and at the end of the film we see that this is what her mother does. An accident happens, we see the tragedy of their lives, the ties between them and the system handles it all.

“Shoplifters” move around the matter of choosing one’s family. We need to scratch the golden holy polish of family and examine the family. Why do people have children, get married, are so interested in having a family? How many people have children without being selfish, without thinking of themselves only? How many parents think that we bring the child to the world, take all his/her responsibility, we want to bring the child to the world and the child does not ask for it? The grandmother says that she would choose them as her family and we understand how right she is at the end of the film. Unfortunately people usually do not act out of love, but for the thoughts of other people and those who beat, kill their daughters because they have lovers think that people will condemn them, not for the good of their daughters. People who love cannot act with violence, as we learn from the film as well.

The system thinks that the child will be happy if she/he is with their real mother, although the mother leaves them all alone in this cold, dark world without love. We remember the happiness they had on the seaside when we see the girl’s picture, all the members of the family, hand in hand, the seaside, painted with the colours, the vitality of bliss. A child draws only the things coming inside, all her/his dreams, the beautiful or ugly things she/he experiences. The world, whether it is a lovely place or a region of impending darkness, it all depends on our hearts and it is the family that gives us this feeling deep down. Why not painting the world with the colours of “Caribbean Blue”, Enya’s song, chanting in our ears days of bliss, making it a sparkling nest for children?  

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