DHEEPAN (France, 2015)


Dallas International Film Festival 2016

dheepan Greetings again from the darkness. Wars exist in many different forms. Some are over contested international boundaries, others are religious conflicts, while others are more personal and intimate. The stories of many refugees could be described as fleeing one type of war only to end up fighting a different kind. Such is the story of Dheepan.

Jacques Audiard is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. A Prophet (2009) and Rust and Bone (2012) are both compelling films, and though his latest may not be quite at that level, it’s still full of intensity and personal drama. Mr. Audiard co-wrote the screenplay with Thomas Bidegain and Noe Dibre, and some of it is based on the remarkable real life story of lead actor Jesuthasan Antonythasan.

Dheepan is a Tamli soldier who is so desperate to flee Sri Lanka that he teams with a woman and young girl he doesn’t know to form what looks like a real family. By using passports of people killed during the war, the pre-fab family of three is issued visas to live in France. Dheepan gets a job as the caretaker for an apartment complex riddled with crime, violence and drugs – and learns to keep his mouth shut and eyes open.

It’s fascinating to watch these three people navigate their new life as they struggle with the language and a new culture. There are flashes of real family problems, but also the awkwardness of three whose only true bond is their escape from their previous life. Living in such close proximity means their true colors are bound to shine through no matter how much effort goes into the family façade.

Jesuthasan Antonythasan (Dheepan) and Kalieaswari Srinivasan (as Yalini his wife) are both excellent and powerful in their roles despite being so inexperienced as actors. Their exchanges are believable, as is their disparate approach to the future. Ms. Srinivasan is especially strong in her scenes with local thug Brahim, played by Vincent Rottiers.  The two have such an unusual connection … alternating between warm and frightening.

Some have found fault with the final action sequence, but it’s such a fitting turn of events given Dheepan’s past … plus the camera work is outstanding. The film won the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, and it’s another notch in the belt of filmmaker Jacques Audiard. It’s also a reminder that we can never really escape the past.

watch the trailer:

 

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