Irish Film Review: The Delinquent Season

WRI/DIR: Mark O’Rowe • PRO: Ruth Coady, Alan Moloney • DOP: Richard Kendrick • ED: Eoin McGuirk • MUS: Ian Neil • DES: Ray Ball • CAST: Cillian Murphy, Catherine Walker, Eva Birthistle, Andrew Scott

The Delinquent Season, written and directed by Mark O’Rowe, pairs on-screen married life with a heavy dose of reality.  This is not often the case in many films, and so it becomes a believable work that is easy to feel invested in. The everydayness of events which occur between the two central couples amplifies just how little drama is necessary to weaken the loose foundations of the supposed stability of suburban married life with kids.

We are introduced to the two central couples as they are sharing a dinner together, and from this first scenario it is clear that tensions are rising between Yvonne (Catherine Walker) and Chris (Andrew Scott). By contrast Jim (Cillian Murphy) and Danielle (Eva Birthistle) are initially portrayed as having a stronger connection. Whereas the first couple appear to be on the brink of destruction, the second seem to merely be approaching marital dissatisfaction. Essentially, the plot centres on an affair that is struck between Jim and Yvonne. The movie handles what could be described as the trite and typical plot device of an affair consistently well. Only in a couple of moments does it not strike quite right.

This film looks at the highs and lows of an affair from a completely different perspective than audiences are generally accustomed to watching. Typically, when an affair is the central event of a film, the victim rather than the perpetrators gets the most attention. More often than not, it is the hurt experienced by the victim that we focus on. In place, this film examines the human motivations to start an affair and the emotions which follow it.

Through concentrating on Jim and Yvonne’s affair, this movie really calls into question how the structure of monogamy functions in the here and now. Society, on the one hand, has become arguably more accepting. Yet, in terms of monogamy and marriage we still expect clear black and white behavioural norms. On the one hand, we are more liberal and on the other hand we have as many rules as ever. If monogamy is upheld as the societal ideal, then the subject matter of this film – a marital affair – must surely be the antithesis to the framework of society.

What really stands out about this film is the depiction of Jim and Yvonne. Although it is arguable that their affair has sprung as a result of childish reasons – boredom, vanity- what we get to witness is a realistic and emotionally invested affair. Firstly, there is nothing glamorous about this affair. It begins so awkwardly that the embarrassment at making that first bold move really resonates. Occasionally, the romantic statements are a little hard to swallow as they appear to be so out of sync with the expectations that go along with the characters’ personalities and backgrounds. Yvonne initially seems far too prim and self-effacing to ever envision that she could get involved with her friend’s husband. Ultimately, Yvonne is shown as a determined fish out of water, taking on this unlikely situation she finds herself in with as much strength as she can muster. Jim plays the exact opposite of what could be considered to be the typically cheating husband. Jim’s kind and responsible nature clashes with his adulterous actions. The emotional ramifications of the affair seem to take the greatest toll on Jim revealing him as someone who is not only sexually but emotional vested in this affair.

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 portrayed in this film. The often ill-fated results of striking up an affair are illustrated with equal effect. Conclusively this film is a detailed 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.

Irene Falvey

15A (See IFCO for details)

103 minutes
The Delinquent Season is released 27th April 2018

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-7DIW0KXCY

 

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Review of Irish Film @ ADIFF 2018: The Delinquent Season

Stephen Porzio attends a dinner party.

The Delinquent Season is a surprisingly old-fashioned drama told with skill by debut director and accomplished playwright Mark O’Rowe (screenwriter on Intermission). The film centres on two couples Jim (Cillian Murphy – Dunkirk, Peaky Blinders) and Daniele (Eva Birthistle – Wake Wood); Chris (Andrew Scott – Sherlock, Spectre) and Yvonne (Catherine Walker – A Dark Song). At first, the relationships appear strong. However, as typical with these types of dramas, cracks soon emerge. Jim, a writer working from home, has succumbed to the ennui of being a stay-at-home dad. Meanwhile, Yvonne’s relationship with her husband has grown volatile. After Chris hits her during a heated argument, Yvonne spends the night at Jim and Danielle’s. When Jim and Yvonne are left alone together, they start to have an affair.

From this point on, The Delinquent Season threads a similar line to movies like Closer, Fatal Attraction and Match Point (O’Rowe even inserts a witty line where Jim comments how clichéd it is) but in a more realist manner. Like these films, the viewer is essentially watching unlikeable characters for two hours. That said, what makes the movie engrossing is the authentic south-Dublin setting and O’Rowe’s knack for capturing how people really talk (a scene revolving around putting out the bins is well-observed). These elements make it easier to identify with the characters. One does not necessarily like Jim and Yvonne. However, the drama lends the question; If you were married but met someone with whom you shared a powerful connection, what would you do?

The film, as its title suggests, manages to capture both the thrill of doing something transgressive but also the pressure to hide it from others. The scenes of intimacy are raw and sensual but forever tinged with the knowledge that things will not end well. Even when Jim and Yvonne’s actions come to light, the drama continues to explore the messy fallout. O’Rowe highlights how promises made in the throws of passions can feel perfect and ideal but can never truly be fulfilled, moving towards a denouement which is moving but also reinforces the idea of life as unpredictable.

O’Rowe comfortably adapts to the cinematic medium with some nice tracking shots – following Jim as he runs errands with his children on a dull, grey South Dublin morning (reinforcing that feeling of ennui) – and a creepy dream sequence. That said, his theatre roots remain in his dialogue, particularly one or two monologues delivered by Andrew Scott’s character. This theatricality is not a major problem when one has actors of such a high calibre. Murphy brings both charisma and naturalism to his character, who is perhaps the most ordinary, normal man he has ever played. Scott evokes a surprising amount of empathy despite his character’s early heinous actions. He tears into monologues, shedding tears and spittle, in a way which makes one wish they saw his Hamlet on stage.

Birthistle, although slightly underused, is excellent. Playing the only properly decent character of the foursome, she brings a coolness and strength to Daniele – as evident by a scene where she berates Chris directly to his face and without hesitation for hitting her friend. However, the show-stopper is Walker who manages to be vulnerable, sensual and three-dimensional in a turn which will no doubt put her on many people’s radar.

 

The Delinquent Season screened on Saturday 3rd March as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival (21 February – 4th March).

 

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