Saturday, 16 April 2016

Dheepan (2015)

Seeking asylum under false identity in France to escape the civil war in Sri Lanka, a trio of refugees try to adapt to life in their new home and each other believing they've escaped the type of violence that plagues their homeland. What they don't realise is that trouble is brewing between rival gangs based around the area they live in.

A mostly satisfying drama from French director Jacques Audiard (responsible for 'Rust and Bone' and 'A Prophet' - both worth a look), though it does wobble in a couple of places.

The film starts out following Dheepan, Yalini, and Illayaal (all three of whom are strangers to each other and using names of a deceased family to get to where they need to) as they escape their war torn country and try to make a living in Paris selling stuff illegally on the streets (but at least they're not manhandling the people they want to be customers). It's a good start to the film, setting the tone and it is interesting to see the film try to show things from the perspective of those tryign to escape their country. It's not the deepest look, but enough to make you think.

Eventually, the trio find somewhere proper to settle and more stable jobs to help them out. Dheepan becomes the caretaker of a block of flats, Yalini the carer of one of the residents, and Illayaal goes to school. At this point, there is less of a narrative drive which is, for the most part, not an issue. The film does a good job of showing the characters adjusting and interacting with their new environment and seeing this was engaging enough on its own. But eventually, and the film is aware of this, the plot has to move forward.

Which it does, as the tensions established between the rival gangs and Dheepan's own memories of war come to the fore, leaving residents unsettled. This part didn't quite fit in with what came before, but it was necessary to keep the film flowing otherwise it would have just kind of petered out. But it does lead to one of the film's outstanding moments, which I shall not ruin (though that differs from the trailer's spoiler-happy approach).

When the pieces in 'Dheepan' click, the film is excellent. There are plenty of moments where is does this. The disappointing part is that it will sour itself with its share of unwanted inclusions or the unnecessary desire to try and add something to make itself seem deep and meaningful in some other way (but only reinforces certain notions about French cinema). It was frustrating because the rest was really good. As a result, it drags the film down from what it could have been. Still, it's a good film and, as I said at the start, a satisfying drama.

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