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Dheepan – Review


Release Date: 26 August 2015 [France]
Director: Jacques Audiard
Writer: Jacques Audiard - Thomas Bidegain - Noé Debré
Cast: Jesuthasan Antonythasan - Kalieaswari Srinivasan - Claudine Vinasithamby



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Posted August 31, 2015 by

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Dheepan Review:

It’s always smirkingly funny to hear someone saying: “Cannes is always about wankers, about movies that take themselves way too seriously, and the Palme d’Or is increasingly boring”. For one, Cannes way never about the entertaining part of the cinema, and for two, do you really dare calling ‘Pulp fiction’ a dull movie? Come on, I double-dare you, motherf***er!! But, we must admit that ‘Dheepan’ here, although being the proud winner of this year’s Palme d’Or, is not to be considered as entertaining as was – and still is ‘Pulp Fiction’.

The surprise regarding ‘Dheepan’ is its topic: we follow the tribulations of a migrant family of three that left the war in Sri Lanka, and their attempt to build a new life in the northern suburbs of Paris. The surprise lies in the context that, when director Jacques Audiard decided to make the movie, the current problematic around the waves of migrants surrounding Europe was definitely not an issue as it is today, nor was it when the movie won the Palme d’Or; hence can it be taken as a premonition, and a certain point of view on what all those people have to get through. The cliché is yet avoided as Dheepan’s family doesn’t come from Lybia, Syria, or any of these countries we here about in the media, but from Sri Lanka, this island south of India, that we don’t really hear much about. To stress even more the diving into this unusual experience, the family is casted with non-professional actors, and the script is based on Anthonythasan Jesuthasan’s (playing Dheepan) real experience… as a migrant.

Aside of the opening and the – quite naive – conclusion, ‘Dheepan’ sets in two distinctive parts. The opening will briefly show us the situation of Sri Lanka from the Tamil Tigers’ point of view, and Dheepan’s voyage to Paris. But France is not all about Versailles’ gardens, or about The Champs Elysees. The family will end up in one of the many infamous dormitory-towns that surrounds Paris, giving straightforwardly a sight of what you do not want to see, or know, about French society. Dheepan is appointed to be the new groundskeeper of one of the blocks, where multiple dealers are running their business. He must follow a few basic rules, do his job, and everything will be alright. Yalini, his wife, trying to surpass the language barrier, agrees to take care of a disabled man in his apartment, while Illayaal, their daughter, struggles to fit in a new school with kids from many origins. Maybe, somehow, life will take back its course, or so does Dheepan hope…

As I mentioned before, the way that French society is depicted here is far from being sheen: this is the typical kind of place where you will end up, with the sweepings of this fringe of the population no one wants to know the very existence. Yet, Audiard’s point seems to remain neutral, showing what is, not what should have been, with a raw treatment of its photography: we see what is, and nothing else. We discover this unknown world with the eyes of Dheepan, we are confronted with the same language barrier, the same expectations for everything to be all right, eventually.

It is very touching to see all these humans, trapped in the same sort-of-endless pit, trying to overcome their differences and stick together; it is also horrifying to know how far the family came from, to end up “there”. It leads us to consider the life of all those men, women and children that made this not-choice to leave their homes, their country, hoping for the slightest bit of a better life. And maybe this is the point of the movie, to make us understand that we couldn’t possibly take care of the world’s issues, we couldn’t possibly shelter everyone fleeing their countries for whatever reasons, but we could at least stop judging them for trying…

‘Dheepan’, to my point of view, deserves its Palme d’Or, as it is a subtle mix between violence and contemplative reflections on surviving, although these topics are also treated, in a different way, in ‘A Prophet’, another Audiard’s movie that I strongly recommend, and that, like ‘Dheepan’, should stick to your head long after you watched it.


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Theo Tessa
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