2108 Japan, Director Hirokazu Kore-eda, certificate 15
Winner 2018 Palme D'Or. Oscar nominated for Best Foreign language film 2019
Osamu, a man with a shifty, wheedling grin, is effectively the Fagin-like head of an extended family of dodgy types who are all up to no good in their way. This household appears to be a middle-aged husband and wife, a teenage daughter, her kid brother and a grandma – all living together in a cramped apartment rented from an equally dodgy landlord who has to keep changing the names on his properties’ title deeds as part of his tax dodge of “flipping” notional ownership.
Theoretically a casual labourer on construction sites, Osamu actually makes his money selling the things he steals on daily shoplifting expeditions with his boy, Shota. His wife Noboyu works in a laundry and she too steals things left in clothes’ pockets all the time. The teenage daughter is Aki who brings in her share to the family finances by taking part in a soft-porn peep show in town. Hatsue is the grandma, an addict of the pachinko slot machines.
One day, coming home on a freezing night after a hard day stealing from supermarkets, Osamu and Shota come across a little girl of perhaps six or seven shivering in the cold. Impulsively, Osamu decides to take the poor homeless little waif in for a few days. She appears to have marks on her body consistent with abuse and she wets the bed. Osamu’s wicked old heart is evidently melted, and he says that they will keep this little girl, Juri, and train her up in the ways of shoplifting, which includes making odd little hand gestures to your thief-partner to indicate when and what you intend to steal. And this despite the TV news broadcasts about this little girl going missing.
The point is that Osamu has, in his cheerfully amoral way, stolen Juri in just the same way as he steals everything else. And it isn’t the first time he’s done it. His ambiguously benevolent abduction of little Juri is part of a larger pattern of concealment that the whole family unit are involved in. Nothing is what it seems. And finally Shota, badly hurt by Juri supplanting him in his dad’s affections, deliberately makes a mess of a shoplifting spree, so that the authorities will catch him and the whole rickety and self-deceiving house of cards will come tumbling down.