Directed by Jacques Audiard
Renowned French filmmaker, Jacques Audiard, author of “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”, “A Prophet” and “Rust and Bone”, does another remarkable job in “Dheepan”, a taut drama that addresses immigration with an acute vision and extreme fondness for its compelling characters.
Mr. Audiard, who co-wrote the screenplay with Thomas Bidegain and Noé Debré, sets a vibrant story about three Sri Lankans who, after losing their families in the brutal civil war, flee from the refugee camp where they were sent in order to find a better life in France.
Antonythasan Jesuthasan, a former Tamil Tiger soldier in real life, naturally seemed very comfortable when putting himself in the skin of the main character, Sivadhasan, since he’s also a Tamil Tiger soldier who, tired and psychologically damaged by consecutive years of war atrocities, decides to search for peace in a riskless place.
To facilitate his entry in France, he assumes the identity of Dheepan, a man who was killed together with his wife and their nine-year-old daughter a couple months before. This suits him perfectly since he takes a complete stranger, the beautiful and bashful Yalini (Kalieaswari Srinivasan) as his wife, and Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby), a nine-year-old orphan who joins them as their daughter.
Instead of lingering in trivial details about the trip, as it’s usually the case in this type of movies, Mr. Audiard, categorically leaves all the tensions to the treacherous housing complex located in Le Pré-Saint-Gervais, a commune in the northeastern suburbs of Paris where the ‘family’ is going to live. Dheepan is more than happy to get a job as the caretaker there, but the lawless zone reveals to be equally unsafe due to concentrated gang activity.
Yalini, whose idea is to go to London where her cousin resides, also finds work in the house of a gang’s leader, Brahim (Vincent Rottiers), taking care of his disabled uncle while the smart Illayaal, even in need of attention and love, is making progress at school.
Soon, the initial detachment that enveloped these three persons evolves to something bigger, to a tenderness and unity that grow as life runs smoothly and they gradually adapt to their new reality.
However, the dangers and violence that undermine the area thwart their plans, and the film passes the threshold of tranquility by pushing us into a freaking bloodshed.
The perseverance of the characters suddenly leads to dilemmas and consternation, situations that are intensified by the flawless performances, which decidedly exceeded the expectations.
Mr. Audiard reinforces his knack for strong, realistic dramas and this one, in particular, feels very contemporary and bursting.
“Dheepan”, Cannes’ Palme d’Or 2015, isn’t devoid of imperfections but has the ability to change moods skillfully according to the circumstances. Whether in its hopeful, brutal, or compassionate forms, the film never loses its grip.