Despite some brief bouts of happiness that are discovered by the title character and his adoptive family, nothing is ever comfortable in Dheepan. This drama from France opens with a soldier named Natarajan piling dead bodies on a fire after the country’s civil war. Elsewhere, a woman is desperately looking for a little girl; any little girl who is without a mother.
Eventually these three strangers meet in order to seek salvation. The trio is granted passports from a dead family, Natarajan becomes Dheepan, and they take to France to find solace.
The struggles are both immediate and long-lasting. Only the young Illayaal speaks a bit of French, and the tenement housing the family has been given features a shady group of drug dealers living across the street.
From Jacques Audiard, Dheepan is an intimate portrait of these refugees, coping with both a new society and each other. Moments of humour pierce a tense film that finds Dheepan and his ‘wife’ trying to understand everyone they meet, some of whom they tenuously befriend. Those lighter moments are powerful and much needed. When trying to understand just who those young men are who guard the D building in their neighbourhood.
It’s both funny and tragic; he’s right, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t violent; they represent one of many issues faces this family in their quest to start life anew.
They struggle internally and externally, but Audiard keeps you enthralled, delivering a ferocious, staggering finale.
Friday Sept. 11th 9PM at the Visa/Elgin Winter Garden Theatre
Saturday Sept 12th 8:30AM at the TIFF Bell Lightbox #1