Dheepan ★★★½

Jacque Audiard’s Palme d’Or winning film about three Sri Lankan refugees (Dheepan, Yalini, Illayaal) moving to a shady neighborhood in France. For the most part this is a drama focusing on the family’s (who is not a real family) adaptation process and culture shock like language barrier as well as their past and getting more familiar with each other. Audiard tackles a lot of different things that come with moving to new country you know nothing about. For the most part everything is well done and nuanced enough that you learn how hard and multifaceted it is to assimilate to another culture. Also delving into the French peoples lives in the neighborhood Audiard uses their difficulties as a mirror to concretize how much worse things are in somewhere like Sri Lanka. Not saying that they have it easy at France and you can see these are men lost in the world of crime and violence. The whole film is very humane despite these kinds of darker undertones, especially the ending which takes a violent turn and goes full frontal on its commentary on Sri Lanka’s situation. There are many elements portraying the kindness of people which makes the turn of events in the end so shocking. Someone like Brahim is clearly thoughtful person but similar to Dheepan (character) he has witnessed too much violence not to get his mind corrupted.

Where this film is at its best are those contradictions and subtleties which is why the ending didn’t fully sit straight with me. It makes you understand the gravity of Dheepan’s background but somehow feels cheap and too self-explanatory. And despite the scale of aspects Audiard touches on, the film lacks cohesion. Things are introduced but forgotten and it seems to bite off more than it can chew. On one hand this makes the flow realistic because life goes on but then the film basically lets go one of its three central characters who I would have died to know more about.

Like with The Sisters Brothers I have nothing technically to complain about. Dheepan isn’t littered with different mechanics or masterful composition but rather focuses on the truthful depiction of these people in their chores in which it succeeds at. This film is well done almost all the way through and definitely recommended.

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