Ian Fastert’s review published on Letterboxd:
The New York Reviews: Movie One (Mild spoilers, go in to this blind if you want the best experience.My opinion is you should go see it, I had one problem with it but I think it's a me problem)
Of the three movies I watched last Friday, Shoplifters is the one I have the most complicated relationship with. Obviously not in a way that makes me dislike it; far from it in fact, at one point as I was watching it I considered making it my film of the year. There's just a slight shift that happens towards the end of the movie to a different tone, and I didn't like it as much as everything that came before. It's complicated too, because the film is set up for this shift to happen eventually, expecting to invest the watcher through making them wait for the inevitable. But that...didn't happen for me? I was invested in the small, beautiful moments we see this family go through, and how amazing their chemistry is, and how every character is so interesting and wonderful and I wanted to just watch their lives forever.
So I think I watched the movie wrong???
At least, maybe this wasn't how it wanted me to be watching it. I wanted to read reviews of it before going in and writing my own, and they all talk about how Koreeda is a master of slowly pulling the curtain away to show the endgame (this is my first movie of his so I can't say either way, though I definitely want to change that status as soon as I can). Looking back on it I agree, the movie does very slowly make you ask questions, but other reviewers seemed to think of this as some intense family drama where I saw it as the sweetest, most sincere family movie ever...until it wasn't. Maybe that says something about my morals, I don't know.
I really do think the first two acts are perfect though, and the third act is very good as well, it's just a very good third act to a different movie than the one I was watching. This is very weird for me.
I really have been going back and forth between all three movies in my head for the last couple of days too; sometimes I'll say to myself "okay but nothing in the other two made me as emotional as some of the scenes in Shoplifters, it's the best of the three" but then I'll groan and start thinking about the other two and I really still don't know what I think of Roma and ugh. It's a mess! These are all so good. Ultimately right now it doesn't matter what I think of the other two though, because I chose to review Shoplifters first so I'm focusing on this amazing movie with the beautiful scenes of people living their lives in the face of capitalism trying to screw them over, and becoming a family based on that shared struggle. It's beautiful, it's masterfully made, and it ends with 30 minutes left in the movie. UGHHHHH.
Maybe on a rewatch I'll see this for the true, perfect masterpiece I suspect it might be, but for now the slight disappointment of the last couple minutes are still holding on. Booooooo Ian.
Obviously still see it if you have the chance though, it's one of the years best. Not many movie stick a fork in my heart like this one, it's just a shame it makes me so frustrated. Mostly at myself though.