‘Shoplifters of the World’ Review: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

“Shoplifters of the World,” a loving gift to superfans of the English band The Smiths, is, we are told at the beginning, “based on true intentions.” I can’t argue with that: Written and directed by Stephen Kijak (who made the fantastic 2008 documentary “Scott Walker: 30 Century Man”), this sweetly nostalgic look at lost boys and lonely girls feels like it comes straight from the heart.

It’s the summer of 1987 and four friends in Denver, Colo., have just learned that their favorite band, The Smiths, has broken up. Like their idols, the teens are romantic and earnest, confused and occasionally pretentious. Cleo (Helena Howard), weary of her supermarket checkout job, dreams of escaping to France; Sheila (Elena Kampouris) desperately wants to consummate her relationship with the adamantly celibate Patrick (James Bloor); and Billy (Nick Krause) might be using his imminent Army training as more escape than destination.

As the four embark on a night of mournful partying and mild self-discovery, the nonstop Smiths soundtrack is provided by a local radio D.J. (an amusing Joe Manganiello) whose metal marathon has been hijacked at gunpoint by another grieving fan (Ellar Coltrane).

“This music is salvation,” he tells the D.J., who will, of course, be grudgingly converted.

Shot in 2018 and inspired by a mischievous urban legend, “Shoplifters” is a Smithstopia of song titles, lyric fragments and scraps of band interviews that infest the movie’s dialogue and production design. But even if you can’t tell Morrissey from Macklemore, don’t be put off: This is a tender story of teen ennui that almost anyone can enjoy. Though probably not metalheads.

Shoplifters of the World
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Google Play, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.

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