Dheepan won the Palme D’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. It has been my experience that the Palme D”Or winners can be a overly “Artsy” and not necessarily appealing to a wide audience. I’d say this is probably the case for Dheepan. It is the story of “Dheepan”, a Sri Lanka refugee who is able to escape the civil war there with a woman and child. They assume the identities of a dead family and travel to France under their names, despite the fact they are all strangers. After a brief stint in Paris, they are resettled into a housing project where Dheepan becomes the “caretaker” in a drug and gang infested set of depressing apartment buildings.
The “family” does well for a while, and Dheepan’s “wife” gets a job caring for an elderly man. Their “daughter” goes to school for the first time and their apartment is a definite improvement over their prior living arrangements. Eventually they get caught up in the drug wars and their nightmarish existence in Sri Lanka appears to be recreating itself in the projects of Paris. Along the way, the three of them learn what it is like to be a family and how to care for each other.
This is a tough film to watch but the acting is remarkable as the facial expressions in all three main characters make the subtitles (the film is in three languages) almost secondary. The good news is that there is an upbeat ending after a pretty depressing hour and one half. Despite the fact that the film was completed prior to the immigrant crisis that Europe is now experiencing, it is hugely relevant for understanding just a tiny bit of what these new immigrants are experiencing and trying to imagine where these European countries are going to house the refugees. It is a very good film and well-deserving of its awards but the subject matter isn’t for everyone. I found myself coming home and researching the Sri Lanka Civil War which is always a sign of a good movie.