Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Dheepan Movie Poster Image
Powerful, violent movie about three Sri Lankan refugees.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 114 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

While there are no obvious positive messages, the movie does raise consciousness about the underreported civil war in Sri Lanka and the struggles of refugees who manage to escape the horrors for Western Europe, only to find the terror of gun-toting drug dealers and gang members in their new home. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

After escaping from the civil war in Sri Lanka, Dheepan finds work as a caretaker in a housing project on the outskirts of Paris where gangs make drug deals, and the violence that comes with that triggers his PTSD, with violent consequences. The women who pretend to be his "wife" and "daughter" in order to escape Sri Lanka also struggle with assimilating into their new culture, and are equally horrified by the violence that surrounds them. 


Gun violence. Gangs shoot machine guns at each other, two men are show dead or dying up close, with blood, and one man shot in one of his eyes. A killing spree involves shootings, Molotov cocktails, and deliberately running people over with a car. A man gets cinderblocks thrown at him from the roof of a high-rise apartment building. A tween girl, new to a school and shunned by her new classmates on the playground, runs at and starts punching another tween girl. Images of a newscast showing footage from the civil war in Sri Lanka. During an argument over homework, a woman posing as the mother of a tween daughter in order to remain in France strikes the tween girl on the head repeatedly after she talks back to her. 


Brief nudity: Woman's exposed buttocks. Implied sex as this woman begins removing her clothes as she walks into the bedroom. 


Several uses of "motherf--ker" and "f--k."  "S--t." "Bust my balls." "Caca." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters frequently smoke cigarettes. Marijuana smoking. One character is severely drunk while drinking from a bottle of whiskey. Beer drinking. 

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.

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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? 

Movie details

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