Pete is a career shoplifter and thought he was at the top of his game. However, when he goes to teach the art to his youngest son of twelve, he realises that the times are changing. His eldest son has started to commit credit card fraud on the Internet – a system that is simpler, easier and safer than anything Pete can offer. Also, with the introduction of security panels into department stores, Pete’s skills are beginning to seem even more redundant. Shoplifters are now being caught regularly and Pete’s youngest son is growing apprehensive about his father’s legacy. With his eldest son steadily taking over the direction the family is taking, Pete must go to great lengths, and tactics that surprise even himself to win back his youngest son, get around the security panels, stop his eldest son changing his system, and get back the control he once had.
The biggest joy of making “Shoplifting” was being able to set a story in a world with morally ambiguous characters but never having to judge them. There is very little question of what is right and wrong in the film – if the main character does learn a lesson it is merely about keeping up with the times. I love that his growth can be moving from one morally reprehensible crime to another morally reprehensible crime and we can still appreciate his humanity, his love for his family, and his need to survive.
“Shoplifting” is ultimately a family drama that deals with what it means to be left behind. I hoped to explore in the film what it means to be usurped, what it is to lose one’s occupation and, ultimately, what it is to fear we have nothing to pass onto our children. I wanted to portray these ideas in a serious light so, though the thought of a man whose legacy to his children is shoplifting can be considered amusing, the film works hard to avoid being a farce. The tone of performance is realistic and un-heightened, the cinematography is incidental and the flow of plot is unpretentious and matter-of-fact.
The humour that is in “Shoplifting” is used to save the characters and ourselves from taking things too seriously. There is a real joy threaded throughout the film from the unorthodox father-son training sessions to the various mistakes the characters make under pressure and these have been allowed to be funny. By laughing at the characters, we hope the story remains entertaining and enjoyable for the viewer as well as offering us points to know when the character is making a mistake in their judgement. The balance between the serious and the comic in the film was a difficult thing to handle and it is with this I hope the film most succeeds.