Criterion // R // $39.95 // May 23, 2017
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted July 9, 2017
Highly Recommended
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Dheepan Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review Dheepan is a political drama centered around three refugees from Tamil who leave the war zone of Sri Lanka to become refugees in France. Each must take on a new identity as they become refugees living in France. Dheepan (Jesuthasan Antonythasan), a former Tamil Tiger solider, takes on the role of the "dad" and husband while Yalini (Kalieaswari Srinivasan) becomes the "mother" of the young girl Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby). The film explores the characters and their relationships. Produced by Pascal Caucheteux (Jackie, A Prophet), Dheepan won the Palme d'Or (Best Picture) at Cannes.

Though Dheepan is a work of fiction, the story it tells is inspired by true events going on in our world today. The story focuses on an important subject matter which director Audiard initially knew little about but which was well-researched and explored in the film. Like his character portrayed in the film, Jesuthasan Antonythasan was also a Tamil Tiger and dealt with many similar experiences and difficulties in his own life. The film manages to explore the situation in Sri Lanka and the plight of the refugees leaving to rebuild their lives following the devastations of their war torn land.

Even though the three individuals come to France hoping for a better life free from the devastations of war that surrounded them in their home country they are confronted with a similarly devastating environment with a gang-run land of ruthless thugs and more devastation. They each struggle to survive while taking on work roles in the slums (while gunfire and bombs go off around them). It's a safer environment for them than what they left in some respects -- but not so different in others. Dheepan and Yalini decide to try to leave and truly start their lives in a safer and better environment for all three.

Dheepan has impressive technical qualities with great cinematography by Éponine Momenceau (Made in Bolivia). The film has an excellent use of color which helped to aid the filmmaking. It conveys the setting with razor-sharp precision. The music score composed by Nicolas Jaar (Ants on a Shrimp) effectively sets the tone of many sequences and gives the film a surprising dream-like quality at times (especially during a hypnotic sequence near the end of the story).
The production design by Michel Barthélémy (Of Gods and Men, With a Friend Like Harry) is impressive. The setting and environments are realistically done. The film works well with the excellent production aesthetics enhancing the film. The costume by Chattoune (Taxi, Babylon A.D.) are effective for the characters.

The screenplay by Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain, and Noé Debré does an excellent job of exploring the refugee situation. There is a distinct humanism to the story as it explores these characters individually, their situation, and plight. It helps Dheepan work as both a strong exploration of the results of Sri Lanka's war and as a personal drama about the characters.

Directed by Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone, A Prophet), Dheepan is yet another masterfully directed work from the French filmmaker. Audiard has a clear, distinct visual style which is often poetic. The filmmaking feels personal in its distinct artistic approach. This is something which makes the filmmaking even more resonant and powerful. The film explores the characters and the refugee issue with a humanity that makes this an important film and experience which has much to say.

The Blu-ray:


Dheepan is presented on Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection in the original 2.40:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio. This is a 1080p high definition digital transfer supervised by both the director and director of photography. The film has terrific use of color throughout. This is a surprisingly vivid presentation featuring great depth and clarity. The film looks stellar and doesn't have any issues with banding or other PQ detriments.


The audio is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio in Tamil and French with English subtitles. Dheepan has an impressive sound design which effectively utilizes the surrounds in several key sequences. Dialogue is crisp, clear, and easy to understand throughout. The original music score by Nicolas Jaar sounds crisp and is well implemented in to the sound design.


This release includes a printed leaflet featuring an essay written by Michael Atkinson about the film.

On disc supplements include:

Audio Commentary featuring director Jacques Audiard and co-screenwriter Noé Debré

Interview with Director Jacques Audiard (21 min., HD), in which he discusses making Dheepan, researching the history of Sri Lanka, and the importance of exploring the story of these refugees. 

Interview with Jesuthasan Antonythasan (22 min., HD) about his participation in the film, his story before the film, as he discusses his real-life parallels and his experiences from being a Tamil Tiger solider.

Deleted Scenes (9 min.), which are presented with both a standalone option and with optional director commentary.

Theatrical Trailer for Dheepan

Final Thoughts:

Audiard explores the topic of the devastations of war and the refugee situation in France with grace and humanity. Dheepan is an excellent film that tells an important story and which explores a serious global issue. Audiard's craft as a filmmaker is impeccable. This is a must see film. The Criterion Collection Blu-ray features excellent PQ/AQ and a nice assortment of extras.

Highly Recommended.

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