(2009)3.5Derek ArmstrongSamson & Delilah was Australia's official 2009 Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film, but it probably never stood a chance, for two simple reasons: 1) Most Academy members don't consider Australia a place where people speak a foreign language; 2) The movie contains barely any spoken language whatsoever, either English or Aboriginal. This was a lucky break for that year's eventual nominees, because on quality alone, Samson & Delilah would have been a daunting opponent. Writer-director Warwick Thornton's film focuses on two aboriginal 14-year-olds scraping through a dusty existence in a small outback town, whose story gets told almost free from dialogue. Marissa Gibson's Delilah doesn't say much, but she's a motormouth compared to Rowan McNamara's Samson, who utters exactly one word in the whole movie. It's a tribute to Thornton's skills as a director that he still coaxes nuanced performances from his novice actors, while keeping the story plenty engrossing, so attentions don't wander during the quieter patches. Thornton requires no dialogue to show the effects of huffing gasoline on the lives of these teens, which is just one obstacle they -- and other poor aboriginal teens -- must face. Yet Thornton also doesn't scold his audience or bludgeon them with obvious moral lessons. His two leads are portraits of wordless resignation, their pride too strong to consider themselves victims. If anything, Thornton points the finger at his own aboriginal heritage as much as at whites -- Delilah's village scapegoats her and ultimately banishes her for an act of carelessness, even though they themselves should shoulder the guilt for that incident. Considering that the Australian government had only just apologized for a century-long policy of forcibly placing aboriginal children in white homes, which ended in the 1960s, Samson & Delilah was an importantly timed conversation starter about where things stand today.