Rating: Rated MA 15+ (strong substance abuse)
A fine film from Australia by an indigenous writer-director and cast that should be seen widely at home and abroad.
Warwick Thornton has found the right pace, tone and empathy to make this a significant story about a young man and a young woman whom many would judge as insignificant.
At the beginning of the film, the same daily routine is emphasised as day-by-day, Samson wakes up, listens to music, sniffs his jar of glue then sits waiting for something to happen. Delilah wakes, rouses her Nana and gives her her tablets, joins her in dot painting, wheels her to the infirmary and to the chapel. They live in a small town-settlement in the Northern Territory bush.
Samson doesn't talk but Rowan McNamara makes him an engaging mischievous character who one day kills a kangaroo by chance and proudly carries it past all the houses. But he falls foul of his brother who plays in a little band on the verandah all day. Delilah (Marissa Gibson) is wrongly accused by the aunties of the town of neglecting her Nana and is beaten. Samson and Delilah leave in the communal truck.
This first part of the film shows conditions in the town, some poor and dingy, some mod cons and some music and painting – and a lot of boredom.
The second part of the film takes Samson and Delilah to Alice Springs where the comfortable lifestyle of middle Australia is taken for granted, kerbside cafes, supermarkets, art dealers selling Nana's paintings for $22,000 each. Delilah wanders through a church, gazing at the images, while an eager young priest watches but is not able to say anything.
Samson and Delilah take refuge under a bridge in the dry Todd River bed where they are befriended and fed by a an alcoholic drifter, Gonzo (Scott Thornton) who has a sense of humour and loves singing.
Things go from bad to worse, Samson almost incessantly dependent on glue and petrol fumes. But, the final part of the film does offer hope, especially with the energies, initiatives and care by the woman, by Delilah. Women are the hope for the men.
The leads are naturals and Nana and Gonzo offer telling glimpses of the older generations. The white community is not presented in any complimentary way.
In the last eight years, there have been a number of films about, with and by aboriginal people, some using local language as does this one. One hopes there will be many more and as persuasive as this one.
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.