fri 14/06/2024

The Delinquents review - escape to the country, Buenos Aires style | reviews, news & interviews

The Delinquents review - escape to the country, Buenos Aires style

The Delinquents review - escape to the country, Buenos Aires style

Rodrigo Moreno's film has a song in its heart and its tongue in its cheek

Change of life: Daniel Elias as Moran, Margarita Molfino as Norma

This latest outing from Argentine director Rodrigo Moreno is a wry parable about escaping the urban rat-race and searching for the meaning of life, viewed through the prism of a pair of world-weary Buenos Aires bank workers. Morán (Daniel Elias) hits upon a scheme of robbing the bank, then giving himself up for what he calculates will be a three-and-a-half year jail term.

Meanwhile, his co-worker Román (Esteban Bigliardi) will hide the money until Morán gets out, whereupon they’ll divide the proceeds and live the free, liberated life they’ve long dreamed of.

There’s an element of the hippy dream about the duo, reflected in Morán’s boyish enthusiasm for the veteran rock band Pappo’s Blues, who sound like Ten Years After meets Iron Butterfly (albeit sung in Spanish). Although the film is seemingly set in the present day, or more or less, Moreno has contrived to give it an antique air.

The bank where the protagonists work (pictured above) feels creaky and run down, dependent on archaic adding machines for totting up the cash balances. The bullying, roughshod manner of bank boss Del Toro (German De Silva) would have him arrested for war crimes in our glittering new world of DEI and non-binary pronouns. Buenos Aires itself seems shabby and scuffed, despite the olde-world glamour of some of its architecture.

In many respects, The Delinquents shouldn’t really work at all. It’s over three hours long, and unwinds its uncomplicated narrative with a leisurely, insouciant air. Moreno depicts the wage-slave working lives of our anti-heroes as a soul-destroying treadmill of banality and repetition, and despite the staff’s years of dogged service to the bank, they’re all treated with hostility and suspicion after Morán’s crime has been revealed by CCTV footage. The bank calls in a particularly unpleasant investigator, Laura Ortega (Laura Peredes), to haul everyone unsparingly over the coals. Del Toro can’t prove Roman’s complicity, but declares his intention to make his life a misery (pictured below, Esteban Bigliardi as Román).

But the flipside is the sublime, mountainous Argentine countryside which represents everything that’s missing in the duo’s lives. It’s out in the unspoiled wilds of Cordoba that our boys independently get to know the freewheeling mini-commune that orbits around filmmaker Ramón (Javier Zoro). It’s basically him, Norma (Margarita Molfino) and Morna (Cecilia Rainero), plus their trusty horse Mancha. They spend much of their time out in the fields while Ramón shoots more footage for his new movie (actually he wants it to be known that he’s a video-maker, since “film as such is dead”.) This does mean there are scenes featuring Norma, Morna, Ramón, Morán and Román, which suggests that Moreno is (a) a fan of Countdown and (b) has approached his story with a song in his heart and his tongue in his cheek.

(Very) long story short, The Delinquents is about the quest rather than the destination, with the journey complicated somewhat by crossed wires and life-changing romantic interludes. But as we watch Morán riding Mancha away through lush grasslands washed by the russet light of the setting sun, with ranges of hills rolling away in shades of purple, we may even feel inclined to saddle up and follow suit.

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