July 27, 2018 Delinquent (Movie Review)
The road to a wide audience has been a long one for Director Kieran Valla (Lift 2013, Nightmare Time 2016) and his film Delinquent. This film depicting a troubled teenager’s emotional turmoil after a robbery gone wrong originally made the festival circuit in 2016, where it collected multiple awards including Best Narrative at the Brooklyn Film Festival and several Best Actor awards for star Alex Shaffer (We Are Your Friends 2015, The Lifeguard 2013). Despite reaching Kickstarter goals, the film has still struggled to find distribution – until now. Delinquent is set to finally be released to VOD platforms on Tuesday, July 31, 2018 through Gravitas Ventures. Bolstered by excellent performances and an authentic setting, Delinquent is a Drama that evokes acclaimed character-driven films like 2016’s Manchester by the Sea or 2011’s Another Earth.
Moments into the film, viewers see Joey (Shaffer) in his high school principal’s office after a brutal fistfight with a classmate. Already, the principal sees through Joey’s tough guy act, but that does not stop him from keying her car and skipping class to sneak a cigarette and some time with his girlfriend Aliyson (Zoë Van Tieghem: Juvie 2017). At first, there is little reason to root for Joey as a protagonist: he plays the aloof kid who is too cool to care, but as soon as his father Rich (Bill Sage: Hap and Leonard 2016, We Are What We Are 2013) enters, it is easy to understand why. Constantly gaslighted by a father who would rather get wasted with his buddies and crack misogynistic jokes rather than take care of his two young kids, Joey is left to pick up the slack.
Still desperate to be welcomed as an adult into his father’s circle, Joey is drafted into the family business of committing petty robberies. Given the position of lookout as his father and his group knock over a local antique store, what was supposed to be a simple job goes horribly awry. What follows is Joey struggling to cope with the emotional weight of the crime he was complicit in, once again entangling himself with Brendan (Sam Dillon: Boyhood 2014, Memoria 2015), his former best friend who is oblivious to the fact that Joey may have just destroyed Brendan’s life.
The mending friendship between Joey and Brendan stands as the sturdy backbone of Delinquent. As the rest of Joey’s life crumbles around him, this relationship he is rebuilding on a shaky foundation molds him into a character that you want to root for. Extreme tension within his own family slowly pushes Joey to come to terms with his reality, forcing him to make a life-shattering choice between his family and his best friend. Perhaps the film is best summed up in Aliyson’s telling Joey that “Some things can’t be fixed.” Indeed they cannot.
Solid writing and a compelling emotional story are bolstered by a stellar cast. Shaffer is the emotional heart of the film, while Sage makes an intensely believable selfish father. Hopefully this film acts as a launching pad for Shaffer, as it is easy to see why he snatched up multiple awards for this performance. However, unfortunately – but unsurprisingly – the film features no people of color, and the overall story is intensely masculine.
The few women featured only seem to drive home how awful the men are by being the object of lust or baring the brunt of male teenage angst. Still, that toxic masculinity is what shapes Joey and eventually sets him apart from his family. Cast members like Kim Director (The Deuce 2017, Dying for the Crown 2018) and Erin Darke (Dietland 2018, The Marvelous Ms. Maisel 2017) deserve as many nods as their counterparts despite limited screen time and character development.
The setting of Delinquent plays as important a role as its actors. Shot on location in Valla’s hometown of Woodbury, Connecticut, Delinquent’s creators relied on the backing of the townspeople and local law enforcement when funds were scarce. The result is an emotional, bleak story filled with flawed characters in a rural setting that felt genuine. Some excellent cinematography captures the dreary grey skies that characterize autumn in New England, setting the ideal tone for this bleak story that snapshots white rural America.
With all that said, Delinquent is a tense drama packed with hard-hitting emotional moments. Thanks to an amazing cast and solid production, this film will quickly have you wrapped up in Joey’s story. Despite some anti-climactic final moments, the story, overall, is gripping and emotionally-charged. If gritty, character-driven Dramas are your thing, be sure to grab Delinquent as soon as it appears on your platform of choice. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Delinquent 4 out of 5 stars.