August 19th, 2022
MOVIE: DELIA’S GONE
STARRING: STEPHAN JAMES, MARISA TOMEI, PAUL WALTER HAUSER, TRAVIS FIMMEL
DIRECTED BY: ROBERT BUDREAU
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Delia’s Gone is the new film from writer/director Robert Budreau, based on a short story by Michael Mamblin. It concerns a young black man named Louis who seeks answers in the death of his sister Delia. The first few scenes are nicely paced as Budreau sets up the relationship between the characters. Louis has developed symptoms akin to autism after a brain injury several years earlier. Delia is his complicated sister who helps to keep him stable and distant from his violent tendencies. Louis’s world is turned upside down when Delia turns up dead in his home one morning. Feeling he unknowingly went violent again, he confesses the crime to the local sheriff, Fran, played by Marisa Tomei and her assistant Bo, played by Paul Walter Hauser. The film then jumps ahead seven years when Louis is living in a voluntary care facility. His rage returns and questions about what really happened begin to surface. Louis’s goal is to find the answers.
Set in rural Ohio, the film has an appropriately bleak atmosphere filled with cloudy skies and some abandoned small homes. As the mystery develops, the well gets deeper and deeper, thickening the plot with a host of characters that may be involved with the crime. It develops into a pretty dark story that doesn’t allow for a lot of levity with the possible exception of Hauser’s performance as Bo. He’s the most nuanced of the actors and the most down to earth of the characters. Most of the others are as unpleasant as the setting.
Stephan James, who is best known for his roles in If Beale Street Could Talk and the Julia Roberts’ mini-series Homecoming, gives a tic-driven, mannered performance as Louis, filled with eye blinks, stimming, and an awkward gait. This does get a bit distracting at times as it often feels more like a “performance” than an authentic set of injury-created movements. It’s the kind of role that often gets Oscar-nominated (think Robert De Niro in Awakenings, Sean Penn in I Am Sam, and the most lauded performance, Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.)
Speaking of Oscar winning performers, Marisa Tomei plays her role as a very downtrodden, tired, middle aged woman. All glimpses of Tomei’s natural beauty are stripped away in favor of dark bags under her eyes and an unflattering haircut. Frances McDormand might have played this role if she hadn’t already won a few Oscars for the more deeply layered women she’s played in the last decade or so. Former Calvin Klein model and Vikings star Travis Fimmel is fine as Tomei’s brother Stacker. His character has found God and is trying to make amends for any involvement he might have had in Delia’s death. Fimmel’s eyes project the mysterious, dichotomous nature of this complex character.
One of the problems I had with the script is that there are characters who know more about the crime than they previously admitted. So why is so much of this coming out years later? It results in yet another disturbing scenario featuring a challenged black man who is taken advantage of so that others can be saved from their involvement in a crime. Do we really need another such story?
Director Budreau has said that Delia’s Gone follows the “rural noir” genre but adds the cultural diversity that previous, otherwise excellent films, such as Fargo and Hell or High Water, left out. While that is true the film doesn’t do much to change stereotypes. It also doesn’t give us a lot of characters that we like, which the other films did. The film does have a couple of interesting performances and might certainly interest fans of murder mysteries but it felt a bit hollow and overly bleak for me.
DELIA’S GONE IS IN SELECT THEATERS THIS FRIDAY AUGUST 19TH, 2022
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Dan Pal