2015/ France

Director: Jacques Audiard

Starring: Jesuthasan Antonythasan, Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Claudine Vinasithamby

Words: R. Topham

An insightful, touching and surreal journey, the film follows the eponymous hero, real name Sivadhasan, and his pretend family, ‘wife’ Yalini and nine year old ‘daughter’ Illayas, on their journey to security after they flee from the civil war in Tamil, Sri Lanka. It emerges that Dheepan isn’t quite the homely type he initially seems to be, and their tumultuous new life on a housing estate in the northeast suburb of Paris goes from terrible to downright unholy, stylistically echoing the tension of the exemplars such as Drive and Sicario just when the situation warrants it.

Dheepan succeeds as one of the most candid films of the year so far because it is so rooted in the development of the characters. Yalini struggles to adopt the maternal role she’s expected to fulfil because her dream of a new beginning was individualistic rather than altruistic, and her hostile behaviour towards Illayas is not the result of an inherent malevolence but because she is haunted by the traumas of her war-torn life in Sri Lanka, and this, though not common or particularly relatable to the mainstream cinema-going audience, is an incredibly poignant situation that magnifies a strain we see passively reported on by the media so much, but rarely delved into on a more human level.

The acting is admirable but the narrative is slightly convoluted – Dheepan meets with his old Colonel who asks him to partner with him in obtaining weapons to send back to Sri Lanka, and then this is barely mentioned again, making one wonder why it was even included in the first place. Once things well and truly kick off on the estate, Dheepan loses his shit and reveals his sinister side, appearing to cosy up to the elite as a means of advancing his status and potentially obtaining weaponry (but, as mentioned above, this is not readdressed so it’s uncertain what Dheepan’s motive is) but then this is swiftly forgotten about and the film somewhat hurriedly ends.