The Delinquent Season: infidelity drama saved by the 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 end up hurting his family. Everyone else simply acts selfishly.
Of course it’s perhaps an escapist fantasy to act purely in your own interests. That 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. That 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.
Think of films about middle-class couples caught in adulterous tangles and you probably imagine the setting as Paris or Hampstead. Bittersweet Irish drama The Delinquent Season takes place, however, in a well-heel corner of Dublin. Where two dinner-party-throwing couples (play by Cillian Murphy, Eva Birthistle, Catherine Walker and Andrew Scott). That come messily unstuck.
Making his film-directing debut, playwright Mark O’Rowe shows that. It doesn’t take very much for these marriages to fray and unravel. ‘Our happiness is fragile,’ says Walker’s Yvonne, embarking on a liaison with Murphy’s Jim. ‘We’re all hanging on to it by the skin of our teeth.’ To tell the truth, there’s something a tad stagy about O’Rowe’s handling of his story. But the quality of the performances make it compelling viewing all the same.
One of the conversations which really underpins the film occurs when Danielle points out how fragile happiness is.
The perceptive truth of this statement underlies all that happens in this plot. While monogamy may be seen as the way to a stable and happy life, this kind of life can unravel instantaneously.
The real emotions and consequences of the banality of a stifling marriage are clearly portray in this film. The often ill-fate results of striking up an affair are illustrate with equal effect. Conclusively this film is a detail and realistic examination into the outcomes of tampering with monogamy and married life. It acutely highlights the fragile nature of modern relationships through extremely human and engaging characters.
Directed By: Mark O’Rowe
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Eva Birthistle, Catherine Walker
Written By: Mark O’Rowe
In Theaters: Nov 9, 2018 Limited
On Disc/Streaming: Nov 9, 2018
Runtime: 104 minutes
Studio: Blue Fox Entertainment
CRITIC REVIEWS FOR THE DELINQUENT SEASON
This Irish drama has little new to add to the illicit love affair genre, but is still sympathetically scripted and emotionally acted
Delinquent Season acutely highlights the fragile nature of modern relationships through extremely human and engaging characters.
There is occasionally a staginess to the screenplay but the characters are real and familiar, the performances are full on, and it is engaging right the way through.
The Delinquent Season will undoubtedly inspire some interesting conversations about fidelity, masculinity, obsession and the mundane work of relationships. But next time, O’Rawe needs to fully explore what it is that makes cinema a different medium.