Samson and Delilah (2009) dir. Warwick Thornton
Starring Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson
By Blair Stewart
In the godforsaken terrain of the Australia's Northern Territories a young Aborigine couple form a rickety bond as they flee the reservation. The surroundings of the Outback are equal in its cruelty to the circumstances of Samson (Rowan McNamara) and Delilah's (Marissa Gibson) off-kilter courtship as they stagger into adulthood. A near-mute love is possible for them despite the boy being blasted out of his skull on gas fumes while the girl cares for her brittle matchmaker of a granny.
Soon fleeing their dismal community for Alice Springs the young lovers suffer hardship in the strangeness of the white man's land. They'll be reduced to living under a highway bridge as challenges faced by the couple both within and outside of their grasp are often more appropriate for that other biblical subject Job.
An Australian award-magnet by novice director Warwick Thornton, "Samson and Delilah" is something I would classify as being critic-proof (young talented director + little-known foreign culture + a few tragedies + unknown actors= 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) that succeeds despite some contrivances. The acting by McNamara and Gibson is certainly lovely for roles that require them to work almost exclusively only with their eyes, and this debut feature would have failed without their ability to do so. If non-existent dialogue and stories told in repetitive motifs aren't your bag, you should avoid it.
I also had the niggling sense of seeing this film before, as if some of the Dardennes and Ken Loach's sensibilities had recently snuck down south. Despite these qualms, Thornton's skill as both a director and cameraman are apparent in the beauty of his cherubic main subjects against the cauterized expanse.
"Samson and Delilah" doesn't shy away from the generations of punches the Aborigines of Oz (and other parts of the New World) have rolled with in the guise of these two kids, and if this is the early results of a new generation in native cinema, the future is bright.