Dheepan full movie review - Dheepan
"Dheepan" is an incredibly gripping character study of a man who was a Tamil soldier in Sri Lanka, who soon meets with another female refugee and a young child with no parents in order to pose as a family so that they can escape to France.
It is clear that the members of the fake family aren't exactly interested in each other. They each simply left to survive, especially Yalini, who even left her two brothers in order to save herself (which doesn't mean she didn't care about them). We soon learn that Dheepan lost his entire family and all of his friends, which is what caused him to move away. He is mostly quiet and does what he can to get by and fit in. Illayal, the young girl, has no parents, so she accepts these parents the best that she can.
They are not just adapting to their environment, but also adapting to each other. All of these characters have trouble connecting to others towards the beginning. Illayal is put in a special needs class in order to learn French and she is excluded by her classmates. When she is thrown out of school for fighting with a girl that excluded her, Yalini scolds her and yells at her. Illayal becomes frustrated since Yalini made her feel even more excluded, and she begins to show it by mocking her. Yalini freaks out and hits her, and later they have a conversation in which Illayal requests that she tries to treat her well. Dheepan gets a job and gets one for Yalini, but they quickly realize that the apartment buildings they live at are populated by a French gang. Yalini becomes fascinated with the gang leader, who frequently comes into the room she works in. While she feels isolated by all others, he is one that connects with her.
Dheepan slowly begins to care more about Yalini and Illayal, but as his love for them grows, a commander of the army he was in while in the Sri Lankan civil war finds him and commands him to get guns for him. Dheepan refuses, and says the war is over for him, but he is then physically beat. A gang war erupts while Yalini and Illayal are coming home from her school, and Yalini decides to ditch. She does seem to care about Illayal and Dheepan, but she convinces herself that she doesn't, and reminds herself that the family is fake in order to leave to her sister in England, which seemed to be her original plan anyway. She understandably doesn't want to get caught in exactly what she just got out of. Dheepan finds her at the train station and physically forces her back to their home. When she is frisked by gang members, he throws the gang member on the ground. Dheepan begins to believe in the fantasy that this is his family so he doesn't have to accept the reality that his family is dead. He declares his own war against the gang by telling them that they can't fire past a certain line. He essentially assumes the role of a soldier that he did in Sri Lanka, and he does it to protect his new family. He wanted so badly for Yalini to care for him back, he begins using force to protect his "family" and force against Yalini in order to maintain it. Eventually, he realizes what he has done and how far he has come, and he simply leaves train tickets and money for Yalini to leave. This is what makes Yalini realize that Dheepan is a good man that has been altered by the war. His PTSD came back and his war mentality kicked in, which eventually builds to the intense finale, in which Dheepan mows through gang members in a trance like state, almost forgetting where he is and why by the end of it.
This final, climactic scene is incredibly visceral and flawlessly directed. It is insane yet remains realistic and somewhat horrifying. When Dheepan is shot in the face, the cinematography mirrors his point of view: getting blurry and slow and then suddenly coming back to his determined and war like state. The camera tracks his feet as he pulls out a machete and walks past the white line, immediately bringing us into the realization of what is happening. The very end, I believe, is Dheepan's fantasy of having a normal, loving family. The focus on the shot of Yalini's hand touching the back of his head leads me to believe that this was a vision he had after his mass killing and his saving of Yalini.
"Dheepan" slowly grips the viewer tighter and tighter, until one is completely engrossed by the film. The film is filled with complex and deeply troubled characters who simply can't escape their past, no matter how hard they try. The morality of the characters begins to become blurred, and no one is really the good guy in this film. Every actor in the film is fantastic, and the film is subtle in its writing. The characters slowly unravel themselves throughout the film and as this happens each moment with them is made more and more involving and unpredictable. The cinematography is fantastic and the way the film is shot gives it an air of realism while also adding nice stylistic touches to certain shots and certain scenes in the film. Certain subtleties such as Dheepan talking with people passing by as the camera pans up to show him fitting in, as well as the young girl mentioning going to a birthday party, and Dheepan sitting around with his co-workers, they all add up to give us a sense of the characters adapting to their environment and a passage of time.