A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dheepan is a 2015 film about a Tamil soldier who flees from the civil war in Sri Lanka and poses as a husband and father to a woman and girl when they relocate to France. It's in French and Tamil, with English subtitles. There are battles with guns and baseball bats between rival gangs, and two men are shown dead or dying up close in the aftermath of a shooting, bleeding, and one man is shot in one of his eyes. There's also a shooting spree involving guns, a machete, a Molotov cocktail, and a car driven at top speed running people over. Dheepan struggles with PTSD. The woman who poses as his wife strikes his "daughter" in the head repeatedly during an argument over homework. There's brief female nudity (buttocks) as a woman walks into a bedroom; implied sex. Marijuana smoking, cigarette smoking, beer drinking, and a drunk character drinking from a bottle of whiskey. "F--k" and variations and other profanity are used.
What's the story?
In DHEEPAN, a Tamil soldier, on the losing side of the civil war in Sri Lanka, wants to escape his homeland. He's given a visa that belonged to a dead soldier, and is paired with a woman and girl, and the three must pose as a family as they make their escape and make their way to France. After the ruse fools the immigration officials, Dheepan (as he is now called) takes his makeshift "family" to their new home in a housing project where he'll work as a caretaker for the high-rise buildings. As they begin to eke out a living, their "daughter" Illayal struggles to fit in to her new school as she begins to learn to speak French, and the "mother" Yallini finds work assisting an elderly man who is related to Brahim, a gang leader who has just been released from prison. As they witness escalating gun violence in their new home, Yallini wants to flee to England and Dheepan struggles with PTSD. Out of desperation, Dheepan attempts to find a way to stop the violence, and reveals to those in the gangs that there is much more to him than they could possibly imagine.
Is it any good?
This film is a violent yet empathetic film in which three Sri Lankan refugees escape the violence of their homeland's civil war only to find a different violence in their new home in Paris. The characters are complex and flawed, and yet it's impossible not to want them to find a peace and happiness that has eluded them in their horrific pasts and difficult present. The civil war in Sri Lanka -- an underreported conflict -- is a central concern in the movie, as is the plight of refugees from war-torn countries everywhere and the violence that plagues relatively peaceful countries.
The acting is magnificent across the board. In so many scenes, facial expressions, gestures, and demeanor express thousands of words without any dialogue being spoken. The writing and direction present the story and its deeper message without being heavy-handed or mawkish. Brief moments of love and the simplest yet most profound moments of human affection and connection are given equal space with the graphic violence surrounding these characters. All in all, Dheepan is an unforgettable movie that presents the human side to a complex international issue.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Dheepan. How does it compare and contrast the violence in the civil war in Sri Lanka with the street violence of gangs in Paris? How do the three lead characters see the similarities and differences?
How does this movie portray the struggles of refugees who flee their war-torn countries?
How does this movie attempt to raise consciousness among its viewers about the civil war in Sri Lanka?
- In theaters: August 25, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: July 7, 2016
- Cast: Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Jesuthasan Antonythasan, Claudine Vinasithamby
- Director: Jacques Audiard
- Studio: France 2 Cinema
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Middle School
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: Violence, language and brief sexuality/nudity.
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