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The Delinquent Season review - infidelity drama saved by the performances

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Verdict: an indie film that definitely won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but nonetheless worth a watch for the brilliant performances.

The Delinquent Season is an Irish film that revels in the melodrama of the everyday. An almost claustrophobically intimate piece that details the quietly scandalous lives of two married couples from Dublin.

The core quartet of the cast are an absolute dream, with Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders) and Eva Birthistle (Brooklyn) balancing out Andrew Scott (Sherlock, Spectre) and Catherine Walker (Versailles). In such a dialogue-centric film, the cast do a brilliant job at navigating the complexity of their characters, leading the audience to like, hate, and pity them by turn.

This film marks screenwriter Mark O’Rowe’s feature directorial debut, and while the style is certainly unique, the whole thing has a distinct indie cliche feel to it.

We’re introduced to the four characters over dinner — Chris (Scott) snapping at his wife Yvonne (Walker), while seemingly perfect couple stay-at-home dad Jim (Murphy) and career woman Danielle (Birthistle) try to ease the tension. The conversation is skilfully written and delivered, yet as the film rolls on it’s hard to invest in these characters that so blindly make their own beds that they’re then horrified to lie in.

Issues of domestic abuse, terminal illness, and infidelity build the framework within which we see pretty much just a series of conversations between different configurations of the characters. Secrets are kept and spilled as the  mundanity of daily life is spiked with melodrama.

A running theme that works well throughout is that one person will start a conversation with a grievance, and will end up rushing to convince the other that it wasn’t such a big deal after all. The manipulation of emotions between the characters is highly sophisticated, except when it resorts to painfully awkward sexual come-ons, complete with narration of bodily responses.

The film fundamentally is about sex, and the role it plays in a relationship. It’s the silent elephant in the room during the first act, which abruptly becomes the panting and groaning elephant that’s thrust in your face for an uncomfortably long montage somewhere in act 2. The stylishly abrupt cut-to-blacks that end the chapters of the film couldn’t come quickly enough.

The biggest downfall of the film is the supposedly grey morality that just isn’t grey at all. Perhaps I’m being naive, but only Andrew Scott’s character had his heart in the right place with his particular conundrum that ended up hurting his family. Everyone else simply acts selfishly. Of course it’s perhaps an escapist fantasy to act purely in your own interests, without thinking about your partner and kids at home, but it’s hard to feel sorry for someone who does so so blatantly. In fact, it’s the performances that carry it, and even they have a hard time during the boring lull in the middle where everyone knows that inevitably this can’t go on, but it takes quite a long time for anything to be done about it. 

Overall, I wanted this film to be better than it was, but it’s in no uncertain terms a masterclass in acting. It’s an indie film that definitely won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but nonetheless worth a watch for the brilliant performances.

The Delinquent Season had it’s UK premiere at the Irish Film Festival London at Regent Street Cinema, and does not yet have a UK release date.

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