Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan tells the powerful of Sivadhasan (Antonythasan Jesuthasan), a Sri Lankan man who was engaged as a Tamil Tiger soldier in the Sri Lankan civil war. As the end of the conflict is getting and his side is about to lose, he decides to escape and winds up at a refugee camp. But to find asylum in France, Sivadhasan is given a pretend wife, Yalini (Kalieaswari Srinivasan), and a pretend daughter, Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby) to pass as a family. He is also given a dead man’s passport. His name is now Dheepan. They find an apartment at a housing project (in France called HLM) in the suburb of Paris. While Illayaal tries to adapt the best to a new culture, a new language and a new school, Dheepan and Yalini are given employment. Dheepan, as a janitor, tries to clean the rooms and buildings he’s assigned, but he has to wait until the gangs have ended their meetings. Yalini works as a caretaker. Her client’s nephew, Brahim (Vincent Rottiers), is under house arrest and wears an ankle bracelet. He is nice to Yalini, but, by his dead-serious attitude, we can guess that he can be a violent man. Ankle bracelet or not, crime boss Brahim is still meeting his goons in his living room. Yalini senses that violence may erupt at any time and she wants to go to London where she has family. Dheepan/Sivadhasan is a soldier, a warrior. So violence and war is part of who he is. But for Dheepan, being at war is not very far from being crazy. Dheepan and become lovers. Audiard’s technical direction cannot be faulted. He deftly uses small moments of impressionistic poetry and humor. Let’s note the cinematography by Eponine Momenceau, who manage to find beauty in the most ordinary and ugly part of this urban setting. Antonythasan Jesuthasan’s acting experience is minimal as he’s got only one other film to his credit. But his life experience is quite appropriate. He was a Sri Lankan child soldier in his country’s civil war and, now he is a successful writer who lives in France. Aided by the support of stage actress Kalieaswari Srinivasan as his extraordinary partner, Jesuthasan gives a brilliant performance. Although I know not everyone will like Dheepan, I recommend the film because of its tremendous artistic and technical qualities, as is often the case with Jacques Audiard’s films.
In Tamil, French and English with English subtitles.