Jacques Audiard finds a unique approach to exploring the immigrant refugee experience, yet he almost loses that uniqueness in a narrative that’s both over-stuffed and overly conventional. To escape civil war in Sri Lanka, an ex-rebel soldier named Sivadhasan (Jesuthasan Anthonyhasan) pretends to be a dead man named Dheepan, and recruits strangers to pose as his wife Yalini (Kalieaswari Srinivasan) and 9-year-old daughter Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby) so they can emigrate to France as a “family.” Audiard delivers some subtly emotional moments in the dynamics within the phony family, as they seek some kind of familiarity and stability in the gang-ridden housing project where Dheepan gets a job as custodian. Then the Green Card-esque scenario develops predictable complications, and at times it feels as though Audiard can’t quite decide which of these characters is the center of the story. Great character beats collide with a climax that’s almost baffling in the way that it feels designed for the expectations of an American re-make. I’d rather focus on the complexities of assimilation than wonder what it will look like when Dheepan is played by Liam Neeson.
Director: Jacques Audiard
Cast: Jesuthasan Antonythasan, Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Claudine Vinasithamby, Vincent Rottiers, Marc Zinga, Faouzi Bensaidi and Bass Dhem