First Hit: Wonderfully engaging film about a Japanese family who chose each other while fighting to stay nourished and together.
This is a view into a Japanese family consisting of husband Osamu Shibata (Lily Franky), wife Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), grandmother Hatsue (Kirin Kiki), Daughter Shibata (Mayu Matsuoka), and son Shota (Jyo Kairi).
The family lives somewhere in Tokyo. They are very poor. Osamu occasionally works as a laborer. Nobuyo works in a laundry facility. Grandmother receives a monthly pension. Shota goes out with Osamu and steals from stores all around town. He’s has a special thing he does with his hands before he steals an item. Sort of his good luck motion. Sometimes he steals alone.
Shibata is grandma’s favorite. She works as a erotic dancer by dancing in front of one-way glass and pretending to masturbate while wearing school girl clothing. She does have a favorite customer 4 ban-san (Sosuke Ikematsu) whom she meets in a conversation room and this scene is extremely touching and heart felt.
The family lives in a very small home that appears to have a very small bathroom, a living space that converts to the sleeping space, and a kitchen space and possibly one other room. They eat together while sharing their adventures of stealing, working, playing and sneaking through society and its laws - openly.
One evening while walking home from stealing, Osamu and Shota hear a young girl crying. Yuri (Miyu Sasaki) is sad, alone, and cold. Osamu picks here up and takes her home. They welcome her into their home and family. Hatsue looks at Yuri’s arms and see signs of physical abuse. Yuri follows Shota around town and in the house – inseparable.
Then grandmother dies which makes their home tenuous because the home is in grandmother’s name and the government who supplies the pension, doesn’t know the rest live there.
Then Shota gets captured stealing from a store, to keep Yuri from getting caught trying to steal. Next thing we know the parents are in jail, and the real story comes out that the family is a chosen family.
This is a story about love and love of the lost ones, about how poverty creates a motivation to steal, and how society and government rules are part of the problem.
The open intimacy of this film is amazing as we watch the family be together in their home and at the beach.
Franky is wonderful as the father, who longs to be a father but really doesn’t like working but likes stealing. His philosophy is that when an item is in the store it doesn’t belong to anyone yet, so it isn’t stealing. Ando is amazing as the mother who loves her husband because of his caring kindness. Matsuoka is sublime as the “daughter” who has a heart of gold and uses her beauty to help the family survive. The scene with 4 ban-san is so touching. Kairi is equally sublime as the young boy who does his best to survive, grow and learn. Kiki is amazing as the grandmother. Her wisdom and conniving ways are hilarious to watch. Sasaki is extraordinarily amazing as the young girl. I felt for her from the moment she appeared on the screen. So sweet. Sosuke Ikematsu as 4 ban-san, the man who watches Shibata was excellent as the non-communicative admirer. Hirokazu Koreeda wrote and directed this incredibly insightful and thought provoking film.
Overall: This engaging film is worth seeing again and again.