Shoplifters: A Japanese Film

Shoplifters: A Japanese Film of Emotional Truths
By Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

“Shoplifters” is a Japanese film, nominated for Best Foreign Film in the Oscar Awards, that depicts family relationships and deep human connections. True to its genre, it is a somewhat slow-moving story, with subtitles as well, that plays out the quiet, subtle, and understated nature of relationships within Japanese culture.

Yet, it also portrays a depth of emotional caring that builds and unfolds slowly among a three-generation household of individuals who are living on the fringes of one of the world’s most developed economies. The issues presented involve challenges that are outside the usual stereotypes of family life in Japan: child abuse, neglect, and abandonment; domestic violence; ageism; poverty.

While dark and sad in many ways, it is also an uplifting story of human caring and connection. Much like the earlier film from Japan, “Departures” – also Oscar nominated – it deals with universal themes within a uniquely Japanese cultural context. In that sense it is an enlightening exploration of modern Japan, it’s historical legacies, as well as issues that we all face in our lives.

The subtitles and slow-pace may make this a bit of a challenge, but one that is well worth the time and effort. See it with someone you care about as it will likely evoke meaningful conversation. Or, if you’re in therapy, bring to your next session as a meaningful starting point.

Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA. A member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at 310 539-2772 or

Copyright 2019 by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

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