Although it is constrained from full expressiveness by technical limitations, “Delinquent” takes a potent, intelligent look at an interlude during which the course of a troubled teenager’s entire life is probably being determined. Low-budget first feature by former journalist Peter Hall is distinguished by an active inner turmoil that courses beneath the often quiet, contemplative surfaces, as well as by a thoughtfulness that informs the artistic choices made on all levels. Pic itself doesn’t possess the sort of easily saleable components that would give it much profile in the commercial marketplace, and is further hampered by its boxy 16mm format, but film is worth a look by fests and marks its director as a name to watch.
At the outset, Tim (Desmond Devenish) is shown as a normal, horny 15 -year-old who’s just been dealt a very bad hand: in the wake of his mother’s suicide nearly six months before, his father Ben (Jeff Paul) has just relocated to a trailer home and snared a job as a cop in a small upstate New York town.
Ben takes out all his anguish on his defenseless son, taking contrary positions on every possible subject and abusing him physically and emotionally.
Tim’s only buddy is Eddie (Ian Eaton), a black kid whose mother thinks Tim is a bad influence on him. As a refuge from his suddenly rotten life, Tim finds an unoccupied summer house nearby and begins hanging out there, snooping into the owners’ things, finding a gun and, most importantly, playing a videotape that reveals the romantic entanglements of cute teenager Tracy (Shawn Batten).
Tracy is in the process of getting an abortion due to her involvement with an older man, something she feels compelled to keep secret from her family. To recover, she heads for the summer house, with fateful results when she unwittingly falls into the revenge scheme Tim has plotted against his father.
Much of the film has Tim alone onscreen (often accompanied by intense Gang of Four music on the soundtrack), rummaging around the house or brooding over what to do about his nasty father. Although pic has its lulls, it’s to Hall’s credit that he maintains the upper hand over the material’s built-in limitations and draws the viewer into his central character’s dilemma and mind-set.
By the end, one sees how easily, and tragically, Tim’s life has turned from normal to ghastly based on unfortunate circumstances and a succession of small events that no one in his circle is able to turn around.
Desmond Devenish’s performance as Tim is not showy, but feels natural and effectively communicates the character’s pain and uncertainty about how to react to the untoward developments in his life.
As his father, Jeff Paul is saddled with a part that Hall has unfortunately written as an outright villain without complexity who will use any excuse to erupt at his son. Other perfs are decent.
Shot in small-town and rural settings, pic features minimal production values except for the score.