cannes film festival

FILM REVIEW: “Dheepan” puts a fresh spin on the immigrant saga

This tale of a Sri Lankan immigrant adjusting to life in Paris won the top prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival

By now, American movie audiences have witnessed a vast panoply of immigrant tales, from the soft-lit nostalgia of John Carney’s “Brooklyn” to the harsh realities of Cary Fukunaga’s “Sin Nombre.” (And let’s not forget the animated adventures of Feivel the mouse in “An American Tail.”) Our country’s history, not to mention its current situation, can make it seem like immigration is the ultimate American narrative, and to a certain degree, that’s true. But it doesn’t just happen here, duh.

Both the origin and the destination of the emigrants in “Dheepan” automatically give the film an extra level of interest. It’s the story of a trio from Sri Lanka who become an ad hoc, fictional family in order to be granted refugee status and resettled in France.  Plopped into one of the infamous housing developments in the suburbs of Paris, where Dheepan (Antonythasan Jesuthasan) is hired as a caretaker, they try to adjust to their new life, leave their war-torn pasts behind, and maintain the fiction that allowed them to escape Hell. 


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