Shoplifters of the World is a film inspired by true events, set over the course of one night in the life of four friends that are reeling from the sudden dissolution of iconic British band The Smiths.  The storyline is based around the band’s break up in 1987, when a bunch of longtime friends and avid fans gather to mourn the loss of their favorite band. Simultaneously, a heartbroken record store clerk shows up at a local radio station demanding that the DJ play only The Smiths all night. Told over the course of one 24-hour period, the story is actually based somewhat on a similar incident that actually happened in Denver.  Watch for references to Madonna, Janet Jackson, Siouxie and the Banshees (Siouxie Su) and Grace Jones (Amazing Grace).


The film begins with the disclosure that it’s “Based on True Intentions”, referring to a similar incident that perceivably happened in Denver back in 1987. It then shows record store employee Dean walking up the stairs of the radio station, before flashing back to earlier in the day prior to the incident taking place. This is when the characters are introduced, beginning with Cleo, the girl Dean has eyes for, but she is seeing Billy, the jock who’s leaving shortly for military duty. Then there’s Sheila (take a bow?) and Patrick, who are a couple, but Patrick doesn’t believe in sex (or eating meat), because of Morrisey.

So while Dean is holed up in the radio station with Full Metal Mickey, wonderfully portrayed by Joe Manganiello,  this foursome of misfits spend a night wallowing over the loss of The Smiths, listening to the radio station, and hitting up parties and nightclubs. There are plenty of songs from The Smiths throughout the film, enough to satisfy any true fan. There are also several others 80s tunes, including Bronski Beat’s “Why?” from the scene where the gang hit up a gay bar. This is where Patrick, and Sheila, both finally come to terms that Patrick is into guys more than girls, and Cleo and Billy realize that Billy might be a bit flexible, even though he’s more into girls than  guys. This is actually a true depiction of what the 80s were like, fluid and open, with everyone doing their own thing in the same space, without labels attached.

Overall, it’s a fun, easy watch that’s definitely not a documentary, but more a story based around an incident that may or may not have happened, and lyrics from a band that were once at the top of the charts with millions of fans around the world. Of course, the film ends much like a night in the club during the 80s would end, with the classic “How Soon Is Now?” Enjoy!

The film is written and directed by openly-gay director Stephen Kijak , known for several previous productions that were also based around music, such as Scott Walker – 30 Century Man, Stones in Exile, If I Leave Here Tomorrow, and We Are X. However, it’s this one that’s a reflection more of himself. “This is really my story and my band. I was that kid,” he stated. His debut feature was the gay-themed romantic comedy Never Met Picasso, and last year he added some directorial skills to the American docuseries Equal, based on the history of queer rights in America.

While this current production, 15 years in the making, has depictions and references to 80s flicks like, Reality Bites, Dazed and Confused, and The Breakfast Club, Kijak mentioned his inspiration also came from previous classics like, American Graffiti and Diner. The soundtrack itself features 20 tracks from The Smiths, along with other 80s classics, and has been endorsed by The Smiths frontman Morrisey himself.

Apparently there’s lots more to come from Kijak as well, with a documentary on Rock Hudson in the works, and another music feature that’s apparently set in 1989 with a different band. All Kijak offers is that, “It’s a lot more queer, but that’s all I can say for now.” Yes, please!


Starring Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike, True Blood, Rampage) and breakout actors Helena Howard (Madeline’s Madeline), Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood), Elena Kampouris (Before I Fall, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2), Nick Krause (The Descendants, Boyhood) and James Bloor (Dunkirk, Hold the Dark).

Cleo (Helena Howard), Patrick (James Bloor), Sheila (Elena Kampouris), Billy (Nick Krause), Dean (Ellar Coltrane), DJ (Joe Manganiello)

Available from West End Films and distributed in North America by RLJE.  Canadian premiere scheduled from April 29 to May  9 at the Hot Docs virtual cinema.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.