After one of their shoplifting sessions, Osamu and his son come across a little girl in the freezing cold. At first reluctant to shelter the girl, Osamu’s wife agrees to take care of her after learning of the hardships she faces. Although the family is poor, barely making enough money to survive through petty crime, they seem to live happily together until an unforeseen incident reveals hidden secrets, testing the bonds that unite them.
Some highlights: the booth scenes seem to parallel the (heartbreaking) ones in Paris, Texas (1984); that there is so little tension in the film (perhaps reminding us My Neighbor Totoro ); and the film is almost—or at least relatively—ruthless in showing us the administrative consequences of being caught for a crime.
Necessity has essentially taken this family back in time, away from television, most phones, and social media at large. Radically, Kore-eda seems at times to be saying that the Japanese recession might’ve been good for the nuclear family unit—a reactionary notion that thematically links the auteur’s work to that of Ozu Yasujirô.
— Chuck Bowen (Slant Magazine)