The Delta (1996)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Gay & Lesbian Films, Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Aug 15, 1997 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

Although it's lazily sensual, well-acted, and beautifully shot, the debut from writer/director Ira Sachs isn't an easy film to like. That's because The Delta asks a lot of its audience. It asks that you draw your own conclusions, connect the dots between disparate themes and plot threads, and reconcile an out-of-nowhere ending with all that's gone before. For audiences willing to do the work, however, the film is a revelation: a naturalistic, almost affectless examination of the tension between anonymous desire and human connection, and of the power of circumstance to alter seemingly unconnected lives. Lovely Lincoln Bloom, played with tender confusion by Shayne Gray, is a compelling protagonist precisely because he's so clueless about what he wants. Seemingly unaware of his own sexual desires, his place in the world, or the depths of his own manipulativeness, he dutifully navigates his genteel existence but breaks free in moments of wordless yearning. When one of Lincoln's furtive partners turns out to be an actual person, however, Lincoln is unable to cope with the other man's needs. Ming Nguyen -- who goes, in a nicely ironic bit of naming, by "John," the term for an anonymous sexual partner or a prostitute's client -- couldn't be more different from Lincoln. Biracial, an immigrant, and hard up for cash, he knows exactly what he wants: to be recognized, to be loved. Such a connection isn't in the cards with Lincoln, who retreats into the safety of his family and his girlfriend. From here, John becomes the focus of the film in a final reel that takes a sharp left turn and leaves the audience gaping. Ultimately, The Delta is about the chasm that separates us -- not just nationalities, races, or classes, but one individual from another. And from Benjamin P. Speth's fever-dream cinematography to Thang Chan's layered performance as Ming, the melancholy beauty of the film's message lingers long after the shock of its ending.