In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m still having trouble watching regular drama movies. And yes, I’m still working on figuring out why is that. However, I have no problems watching dramas with a twist. And that twist can be absolutely anything as long as it adds something to the flavor of the movie. Dheepan is a compelling and highly immersive immigrant story set against the backdrop of a rough French neighborhood. We will be following a family fleeing the war in Sri Lanka and looking for a better life in France. As you can notice, it’s that rough French hood part that stood out to me and made me check this movie out.
Dheepan shows you it’s not fucking around from the first minute as we watch Tamil Tigers burn a bunch of people on the beach. There’s no dialogue as no words are needed following the old film rule show, don’t tell. And right away you know you’re going to be watching a great movie. The more I started reading about it, the more fucked up it got. For example, our lead actor Jesuthasan Antonythasan, who plays the eponymous Dheepan, was a boy soldier for Tamil Tigers in real life. I can only imagine how difficult and important it was for him to give a good performance. And he fucking nailed it along with the rest of the cast.
Moreover, this was the first movie for both Kalieaswari Srinivasan and Claudine Vinasithamby, who play Yalini and Illayaal. Dheepan is actually a family drama telling a very human story. It’s just so damn immersive that you can’t look away not for one second. It’s no wonder that the movie won the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. It reminds me of two similarly compelling movies The Beautiful Country and The Rocket. I urge you to check them out as they’re just as good as this one. And this is coming from someone who prefers any other type of movie. I would rather watch Predator for the 100th time than watch a patriarch of a family slowly dying of cancer while his children bicker over inheritance.
And yet I thoroughly enjoyed Dheepan, a harrowing and yet heartwarming story of individuals and then a family just trying to make it. The movie is not preachy and it’s not going to beat you over the head with messaging. However, if you’re willing to look, ye shall find. That fucking elephant in the jungle though was mighty powerful. The cinematography was excellent with those deep and saturated colors I love so much. The movie also has a certain artistic quality bringing you closer to the mindset of these characters, especially Dheepan.
You might call it thought-provoking at will. It’s not asking you to morally justify the question of whether someone deserves a second chance, it’s just asking you to witness their story. And if you decide to think about what that means, that’s entirely up to you. Another interesting element is the question of immigration. If you have an authentic and carefully thought-out story, it can effortlessly highlight everything it touches. You have immigrants who are willing to work the lowest-paid jobs in the worst neighborhoods living with the “native” French population in a position to make the same bad choices they are.
All of them are under the rule of French authorities who seem to be unable to solve this question of poverty, immigration, integration, and crime. Something we seem to be discussing in almost every French movie I recommend. The last one was Athena and the first one was La Haine. What is it that people need? Just a stable environment and an opportunity to grow along with their community, that’s it. Dheepan also captures that feeling of starting life anew. And not just life, but starting a family anew. It does become a bit more unfocused and artistic as time goes on but that’s just a minor complaint. This is a masterpiece you simply need to check out.
Director: Jacques Audiard
Writers: Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain, Noé Debré
Cast: Jesuthasan Antonythasan, Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Claudine Vinasithamby, Vincent Rottiers, Marc Zinga
Fun Facts: British rapper M.I.A. AKA Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam also fled Sri Lanka during the civil war. Director of this movie Jacques Audiard actually sent her the script hoping she would play Yalini but she ultimately refused.