Shoplifters: Kore-eda Hirokazu offers a few things in this drama: a rare (for non-locals, at least) view of the underside of Japan, and an alternative view of family. Taking the idea that friends are the family you choose one step further and closing the circle, the relationships are very touching, complex, and ultimately sad, even if it’s a joyous film during its duration (it may just be that it feels good to watch a film this well-constructed, no matter how sad the story may be). It’s anchored by an ensemble that is truly phenomenal, with nary an off-note to be found. The kids, Jyo Kairi and Sasaki Miyu are adorable without any undue cuteness. At the other end of the age spectrum is Kiki Kirin, making a lovely matriarch to the family. Lily Franky as the mischievous and somewhat pathetic patriarch is well paired with Andoo Sakura, loving and almost ferocious when need arises. Matsuoka Mayu completes the family as the sassy young woman. They are all mentioned because they all get their moments, and the film would not be as rich without any one of them. The film is beautifully paced, and the work of cinematographer Kondo Ryuto is quite something: he moves the camera beautifully when asked to, and finds great framing, in particular around the cramped, stuffed apartment which is the film’s main location.