Dheepan Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review
The woman frantically scours the refugee camp. She asks a boy if he has parents, to which he points their way. He asks a man if the girl on his lap is his daughter, which she is. She finds a young girl, an orphan, and takes her by the hand. In the tent, her plot is found out: she has lifted passports from dead people and tried to pass herself and the girl off as them.
That night, a man, Sivadhasan (Antonythasan Jesuthasan, SENGADAL), inquires. He announces his own plan: he, the woman, “Yalini” (Kalieaswari Srinivasan, in her debut), and the girl, “Illayaal” (Claudine Vinasthamby, also in her debut), will get out of the country together and go to France. His passport name: “Dheepan.”
It is near the end of the Sri Lankan Civil War and Dheepan is a Tamil soldier, one of many who has been forced into the makeshift village. There will be a better life in France, where the three have been granted asylum. Dheepan and Yalini find themselves in a housing community in the Paris suburbs of Le Pré, where they take any jobs they can and send the young Illayaal to public school. With secrets to keep and struggles weighing heavily, it feels as if it’s only a matter of time before something catches up to the “family.”
It is fascinating to observe Dheepan and Yalini, not only because of their adjustment into their new lives, but also because they are doing so while playing a charade. The move from Sri Lanka to France was intended to bring freedom, yet they and their “daughter” are not permitted to live as themselves.
DHEEPAN begins and continues for a solid chunk of the runtime as a tale of the immigrant struggle. But it veers here and there and it turns out that director Jacques Audiard (2012’s RUST AND BONE, 2009’s Oscar-nominated A PROPHET) is eager to touch on more topics than perhaps his film should hold. Some instances, such as Illayaal adjusting to school life as an outsider, add to the needs of the characters and themes of alienation. But others, like Dheepan’s battles with thugs, don’t contribute a whole lot to the soul of the story, even nearly threatening to take away.
For the majority of the film, DHEEPAN feels as if what the audience is watching is a genuine situation occurring. (How many families have experienced a similar situation? How many have had to strip themselves of their own name?) While not shot like a documentary, there is an admirable authenticity here, most notably the fact that lead Jesuthasan is a former soldier for the Tamil Tigers himself. This heightens the drama and better illustrates the existence of such a situation. DHEEPAN is timely and will be for a long time.
DHEEPAN won the Palme d’Or at the 68th Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for nine César Awards.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “The film was completed in a fully digital workflow.”
DHEEPAN looks quite good here, with clear details and natural colors.
Audio: Tamil, French and English 5.1 Surround. Subtitles in English. “This film features a fully digital soundtrack. The 5.1 surround audio for this release was mastered from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD.”
The dialogue comes through without issues and many of the sounds add to the authentic feel of the locations.
Audio commentary featuring director Audiard and coscreenwriter Noé Debré: Audiard and Debré offer a strong, thorough commentary, delving into the inspirations, production, style, themes and more of DHEEPAN.
Jacques Audiard (21:14): Audiard sits down to discuss DHEEPAN as well as some autobiographical bits.
Antonythasan Jesuthasan (21:52): Lead Jesuthasan sits down for an interview to reflect on his past as a Tamil Tiger and working on DHEEPAN.
Deleted Scenes (9:03): The chunk here can only be viewed as a whole. An optional commentary is included.
Also included with this Criterion Collection release is an essay by critic Michael Atkinson.