The MAMI film festival is over but I still have a couple of reviews pending, first of which I shall be covering today. With that, I finished watching the new Spanish film, The Delinquents which is Argentina’s Official Entry to the Academy Awards this year. The one good thing about MAMI and its curation committee was that they curated a lot of films which were already short-listed for the Academy Awards next year from across the globe. And on Saturday, I happened to watch three back to back films in what was quite a watchathon of sorts. Amongst them was The Delinquents, and I had high hopes from the film simply because Argentina had made it to the top 5 last year with their terrific film Argentina, 1985, a film that I had thoroughly enjoyed. So then does The Delinquents manage to impress, let’s find out.
Story & Screenplay
The Delinquents follows the story of two middle aged men who are tired of their bank jobs until one of them comes up with an idea to rob the bank. They are successful as well until there is an introduction of the third dimension. The story here is niche to the core and this isn’t a typical heist drama that you would associate it to be. If you are expecting a payback at the end amidst a high adrenaline rush then this film ain’t for you. This is a slow burn that tactfully highlights the complexities of relationships and the shifting equations between characters while using the heist as a catalyst. The screenplay standing at a whopping runtime of 190 minutes has the ability to make you feel drousy while counting the minutes at several junctures. Yet, if you are willing to focus and expect an unconventional route to a heist film, then you would end up being pleasantly surprised. This section shall contain mild spoilers.
The drama is purposely divided into two chapters to acknowledge the tonal shift in the drama midway through. The first chapter focuses on the ideation and implementation of the heist while introducing two of the three protagonists in the drama. The motivation for the characters is their mundane lives that they are subjected to while continuing to work in their bank for the rest of their lives. The plan of the robbery is simple and effective while both of them agree to work in partnership. There is considerable amount of drama that transpires including an ongoing investigation while the drama continues to meander on. In between, you are also subjected to the strained relationship between the two protagonists, one of whom is in jail. But the drama takes a sudden turn with the introduction of a new chapter.
The new chapter brings with it a budding new relationship with one of the two protagonists who is out in the woods to hide the stolen money. The change of setting is from the grim bylanes of the city to some sunshine in the woods wherein he encounters a lady with her tribe. The budding relationship is the start of the third dimension that threatens to derail the plan, that soon transpires into reality following an extended flashback that incorporates a nice littke twist to the proceedings. Again, there is no real payback of the robbery given that the same episode is merely used as a catalyst in the drama. The soul of the film is the shifting equations between characters that ultimately ends up affecting everyone’s lives.
The ending in question here is abrupt and it doesn’t quite leave you on a high. Many might be left scratching their heads as to what the point of the film was. And here is a little interpretation courtsey my friend Virag Dhulia who had accompanied me for the film. His theory was interesting – we see a fight brewing between the character of Roman and Norma after the former conveys that his colleague in jail, Moran was the same man whom she had fallen for three years ago. This leads to Norma dumping both Roman and Moran while completely disappearing from the scene. Moran had previously promised her that he shall get back to here, and he does visit her house after coming out of jail. Yet, he doesn’t find here and all of a sudden, money isn’t important to him. On the other hand, Roman being promised a sum of money awaits Moran to reach the destination where the stolen money was kept. Unfortunately, Moran doesn’t appear either which means everyone is at a loss and no one gets the money. This explanation worked the best for me in a screenplay which was a slow burn of the highest order for a heist film and niche in many ways.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational and it does weigh down the drama with a lot of details told through the lines. Yet, it did account for a flavourful watch that allowed me ample time to invest in the drama and its characters. The music and BGM represent the non-hurried treatment of the drama really well. The cinematography comprises of long shots and it does lead to some elongated scenes throughout its runtime. The editing could have been crisper particularly with its runtime which made me feel the drama was longer than usual. Director Rodrigo Moreno does a good job by opting for an unconventional approach for a heist film. As a result, his target audience might be slender but the film does talk to you at several places while deftly blurring the lines between the importance of money versus the mental peace. The direction was pretty good here.
The performances are stupendous here with the characters gently extracting a bout of humour in the proceedings. The story focuses on primarily three characters and all of them have done a swell job. Margarita Molfino as Norma looks pretty and has a towering screen presence. Her charming personality is reflected really well in her act which seemed to be unassuming but without a payback(intentionally done). Daniel Elias as Moran is impeccable and nicely works with the emotions, particularly towards the end. Esteban Bigliardi as Roman is wonderfully restrained and takes you on a journey with varied emotions that are conflicting in many ways. And he expertly touches upon them with a lot of dignity. All other characters are good as well.
As a part of our MAMI coverage, Argentina’s Official Entry to the Academy Awards, The Deliquents is an understated and niche heist drama that opts for an unconventional route, something that may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you are into slow burns and enjoy subtly unconventional dramas then do opt for this one! I quite liked it!