Dheepan – a review



Three strangers are forced together out of desperation in a bid to escape war-torn Sri Lanka. Dheepan takes on this new family as a means to an end but that end soon gets frayed and the means must drastically change to ensure their survival.

Having reached France, Dheepan lands a job as a caretaker in a block of high-rise housing. Soon the violent crime that permeates these blocks touches their lives and he must confront his tortured past in more ways than one to secure his family’s safety.

Really, it’s a love story. A love that’s forged out of pain, suffering, violence, hardship and loss. So, not your Disney princess kind of love story but a very real one. Poignant, especially, in the current sociopolitical climate.

Director Jacques Audiard conjures a mixture of startlingly atmospheric cinematography and a more documentarian style of filmmaking to unsettle you almost as much as the eponymous villain-turned-hero himself. Jesuthasan Antonythasan has you searching for answers in his troubled face from the very opening frame. It’s a central performance powered by a muted intensity and delicate yet desperate duplicity. Truly captivating. Strategically leaking out more and more of this tortured soul as the story unfolds.

In his new ‘wife’ (played with absolute equality by Kalieaswari Srinivasan) Dheepan finds his reluctant counterpart. The development of their relationship is the film’s journey. Out of adversity they find each other and in so doing, eventually, find solace, salvation and ultimately love.

A stylish, almost orchestral aesthetic nailed hard to the screen with performances of deep humanity, it’s about the internal and external conflict of war, about how we see other people and how they see themselves. Dark, gritty and powerful, a film that lingers, Dheepan is a tale of love from a different world.


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