Sivadhasan (Antonythasan Jesuthasan) is a former Tamil Tiger soldier who is tired of the killing and the war. That’s why he adopts the name Dheepan, taken from a dead man’s passport, and teams up with Yalini (Kalieaswari Srinivasan) and 9-year-old orphan Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby). Together they feign being a family in order to be eligible for migration to Europe. Their ploy works, but they were probably hoping to end up somewhere nicer than in the suburban Paris slum that is Le Pré, completely overrun by gangsters and drug peddlers.
The first hour – easily the movie’s stronger half – shows the three of them adapting to this strange new world. They do their best to blend in, and slowly they start to become a real family rather than pretending to be one.
But then director Jacques Audiard (the man who has previously brought us Un Prophète) decides to switch gears and turns Dheepan into some kind of Taxi Driver wannabe. Dheepan’s old commander shows up, demands his help to secure funds, beats him up and then isn’t seen again for the rest of the movie. Illayaal pretty much disappears from the story once Yalini has become the caretaker of an old man, whose nephew is the gang leader involved in a turf war with… well, somebody. Then there’s a shoot-out and Dheepan starts to revert to his old ways, hell-bent on taking out the bad guys.
Not only are weird choices being made during the movie’s second half, the action sequences simply don’t look good and left me completely underwhelmed, especially after a strong and slowly smoldering first half.