Dheepan is a Tamil freedom fighter, a Tiger. In Sri Lanka, the Civil War is reaching its end, and defeat is near. Dheepan decides to flee, taking with him two strangers – a woman and a little girl – hoping that they will make it easier for him to claim asylum in Europe.
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Great insight into today's conflicts and struggles. And, again, Jacques Audiard is talented presenting
lead characters as imperfect, flawed humans, like we truly are. The narrative looks at how a french "banlieue" ruled by gangs becomes the second landscape for violence of a trio. A man, a woman and a chid that are learning how to be a family of refugees, the way found to escape war in their homeland Sri Lanka.
I still remember the mixture of confusion and annoyance from critics when Dheepan won a surprise Palme d'Or, and while it's a functional film, it's certainly an ordinary one. Jacques Audiard knows where to point the camera, but Dheepan ultimately gives in to the most irksome trend of what passes for serious social realism these days: movies that scream "I'm the stuff of life!" but feel like the stuff of fiction.
France is hell. The UK is heaven. Audiard's manichean geopolitical tale is too simplistic, but I can see why it would score big prizes in Cannes: it was the right film at the right time. Basically, it's "La Haine meets The Raid".
Dheepan fled the war and went into exile in France so that Audiard be able to make his flashy and whimsical film about the suburbs and gangs, ie, the exiled combat in an above-specular film so that "La Haine" could have the chance of a second life. And they give awards to deceptions like this. Although "Sur mes Lèvres," Audiard is one of the great deceits of French cinema, along the "inspiring" Kassovitz.
Arresting drama that finds three strangers posing as a family to escape war torn Sri Lanka only to find themselves in a different kind of war zone in France. Performances by the three leads are dynamite as they become accustomed to one another even as other forces begin to unravel them. Unfortunate that the final reels lose the thread and devolve into 'action film' clichés. Even worse the tacked on ending.
Exposing the frailties of utopia and stripping conventions, Dheepan raises questions about the ability to escape a world that defines us, while trying to find humanity in a climate of terror. Audiard drives the narrative to an impressively gruesome finale, a slap in the face that tells us that we can do better, that we can make a difference. And we should.
A good film if not a deserved Palme d'Or winner. The premise is worthy for filmic inquiry, but its attempt to convey multicultural social realism lacks authenticity, and the characters lack the psychological depth required to avoid caricature. Audiard is a competent filmmaker, but the chance to explore fraught social milieus seems like a missed opportunity.