Dheepan is one of those films that lures you in slowly and then quickly builds up the intensity to a resounding level. And whilst other films show these changes to much surprise, Jacques Audiard’s directing provides many dramatic moments of tension that is very believable throughout.
Telling a tale of survival, the story takes place during the final days of the Sri Lankan Civil War. We are introduced to Sivadhasan (Antonythasan Jesuthasan) who has just finished his stint as a soldier and is sent to a refugee camp. To escape the country, he is put with strangers to resemble a dead man’s family in order for them to acquire asylum and head to France. In doing so, the charade begins and he takes on the name Dheepan. The film follows how his newly found “wife” (Kalieaswari Srinivasan) and “daughter” (Claudine Vinasithamby) work together to make a fresh start in a foreign land.
This synopsis doesn’t do justice for how much more complex their situation gets. Not only is this a film that gives an insight into Post Traumatic Stress Disorders but it’s also a great way to explore the lives of refugees and those who are simply trying to do whatever it takes to have a better life. I also forget to add, that all while this is going on, our characters are placed in a rough housing project, which is run by drug dealers and dangerous gangs. Any one of these aspects would have been enough of a reason to make a film on. But thankfully, we’re privileged to see all three at play and in doing so, we get one hell of a dramatic film.
What I love the most about this film is how genuine everything seems and how natural this family works in the situations they’re put in. It’s fascinating to know more about a Civil War that I previously had no clue about, but also to get a different outlook to the attitudes we might hold towards refugees seeking asylum. These aspects are simply exemplified in the great performances by all three leads, who really make you feel that every one of their reactions is grounded in reality.
Having said this, the reason why I haven’t given it any more than an 8 out of 10 is that a couple of specific incidents seemed a little bit, shall we say, overly ludicrous. This only occurs within the last 15 minutes and if you watch the film you might see exactly what I mean. And it isn’t a deal breaker since it does add to the feeling of intensity which I love because is it’s exciting. But at the same time, I can’t help but think that this is getting a little bit too out of hand and certain events probably wouldn’t have ended like they did in reality.
Nevertheless, everything else in the film is still very much believable as mentioned. And Dheepan is a great story that’s entirely unique and incredibly intense to watch. Which is still surprising, judging by what you think you’re getting yourself into by the half-way point of the film. Thankfully, it really does put you in a situation where you won’t be able to predict how it’s going to end and you don’t know what’s going to happen next. Ultimately, this is what every film should be doing and is why Dheepan truly deserves your watch.