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(Japanese, English subtitles): The film opens with a man and a young person exchanging brief hand signals, which is followed by both of them shoplifting groceries. On the way home from a shoplifting expedition one night, they happen upon a little girl, Juri, who appears to be abandoned on a porch. They take her home to their family living in a flat – Grandma, the dad’s wife, and his sister-in-law. The film serves as an exploration of a group of people who live “under-the-radar” of the larger Tokyo society. I loved this film and its series of surprises and twists that reveal, over time, the “family” and what that means to each of the people living in the flat (and what that concept meant to me as the viewer). The story is about the things that connect people as “family”. The acting is superb – after a time, I didn’t feel like I was watching a movie as much as having the feeling of being let in on a series of family conversations. The film is often funny and psychologically insightful.  Big thumbs up from me for a film that is so beautifully told and feels so authentic; the characters develop slowly and grow on you and together deliver a powerful reflection on the meaning of family. Its selection for the Palme d’Or at Cannes is well-deserved.

About Gary Burkholder

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