Love Blooms Against a Harsh Aboriginal Outback in Samson & Delilah

A deglamorized couple-on-the-run story, Warwick Thornton’s Samson & Delilah doubles as a portrait of a tiny Australian aboriginal community. When nascent couple Samson (Rowan McNamara) and Delilah (Marissa Gibson) receive simultaneous beatings—he from his brothers in retaliation for his own act of aggression, she from the village elders after her grandmother dies under her watch—they steal a truck and head out for (white) civilization, setting up shop beneath an overpass. Beset by cash problems, they take to petty theft and hawking Delilah’s paintings, before circumstances necessitate their eventual return home. If the outside world is portrayed largely as a collection of suspicious security guards, condescending owners of “native” art galleries, and aggressive kidnappers, then the aboriginal community is seen as only slightly more sustaining. Depicted as something like an eternal dead end, the village emerges as a sharply drawn world of gas sniffing, makeshift reggae bands, and corporal punishment. Against such a backdrop, Samson and Delilah’s becomes an unlikely coupling, their love story enacted more through ritualized gesture than words, like the two lobbing pebbles at each other, or Delilah washing away her lover’s wounds. The spiritual here is every bit as powerful as the physical.

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