Warwick Thornton’s début, Samson & Delilah, is a necessary and original film addressing the immense poverty and racial differences within Australian culture. These issues are simply (and cleverly) a background, however, to a complicated yet beautiful love story that unfolds between the two teenage protagonists, played by newcomers Rowan McNamara (Samson) and Marissa Gibson (Delilah) in raw performances which allow the viewer to feel as if they aren’t even acting during their largely wordless interactions.
The story begins in an isolated Aborigine community in Central Australia, poor as it is dirty and restricting (the characters wear the same clothes for two-thirds of the movie). The teens’ lives orbit in repetitive cycles: Delilah cares for her sick Nana (Metjili Gibson) and helps her paint original Aborigine art, while Samson huffs petrol, plays his brother’s guitar when he’s not looking, and follows Delilah around.
Samson’s expresses his interest in Delilah childishly. He throws pebbles at her to get her attention and writes S + D on a supply store wall that she visits. Much to her disdain, he starts following her as she carries out her responsibilities to her Nana. Eventually he imposes himself on her completely by bringing his mattress and pillows to her space and forcing his residence with her. Delilah eventually accepts his presence, though she pretends to ignore it.
Once Delilah’s Nana dies, everything changes. Samson recognizes this and takes Delilah away from community pressures (by stealing the community car) and towards a freer life.
By escaping the restraints of their Aborigine community, the two are forced to face their skin color and extreme destitution. Silent together, they’re also silent to the outside world, where they arguably cannot survive amid addiction, abuse and exclusion. But pushed to the brink of poverty and physical exhaustion, the two find solace and connection with each other . Through Samson and Delilah, Thornton speaks up for them, and he doesn’t even need words to yell.
Opens October 15th