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CANNES 2015 Review: Dheepan

Many festivalgoers at this years Festival de Cannes were puzzled when Jacques Audiard’s DHEEPAN was awarded the Palme d’Or. Having attended the festival myself, I somehow managed to miss the early morning screening of the film. That being said, there were many films I loved, and eagerly hoped that one of them would win the award. After finally seeing DHEEPAN, I join the rest of the puzzled. Audiard’s film is definitely solid, very good in fact, but it is far from being one of this year’s best.

The film opens in the midst of a civil war in Sri Lanka. A man (Jesuthasan Antonythasan) has watched his family and friends die, and now seeks to escape. He meets Yalini (Kalieaswari Srinivasan), and along with the young Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby) the three pose as a family and escape to France. Assuming the identity of Dheepan, the man must struggle to build his life in a housing complex that begins to emulate the community he tried so hard to get away from.

DHEEPAN moves at a very slow pace throughout. At times it is difficult to understand exactly what the writers are trying to convey, as it is quite messy. Eventually the film explodes into a TAXI DRIVER-esque finale, that while not entirely unearned, still feels slightly out of place. Antonythasan is really great as the title character, showing incredible talent for an actor who is only appearing in his second film. He is expertly able to convey Dheepan’s angst, which is perhaps the most excusable reason why the finale works.

While Audiard (A PROPHET, RUST AND BONE) once again shows immense skill as a director, is it at times difficult to grasp what he is trying to say with DHEEPAN. The film is not a failure by any means, but it does not stand up to other films from this year’s Cannes competition.

[star v=35]

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.