The second entry in a proposed trilogy from British independent director Gareth Jones (2009’s Desire being the inaugural chapter), Delight (2014) isn’t short on lofty concepts and ideas but does rather struggle to lift itself above its budgetary limitations. A meditation on loss, memory and the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) plaguing Jeanne Balibar’s haunted war photographer, there are certainly comparables to be drawn between Jones’ latest and Erik Poppe’s recent Juliette Binoche-starring A Thousand Times Good Night (2013), though the latter film comes up trumps in terms of dramatically realising the familial fractures that can emerge as a by-product of such a perilous vocation.
On the road with her two children after leaving her sleazy tabloid journo husband (Tim Dutton), passionate former war photographer Echo (French actress Balibar) finds herself in deepest, darkest Wales on the lookout for Jo (Rupert Allan), a brilliant visual artist and one-time colleague. Reeling from the tragic discovery that Jo recently committed suicide – perhaps a consequence of the brutality he witnessed abroad or just a sheer inability to adjust to the mundanity of life as a pig farmer – Echo falls headlong into a love affair with his son, Zac (Gavin Fowler). Finding herself the talk of the community that surround Jo’s farm, which also houses his widow Glennis (Eiry Thomas) and Zac’s grandmother Grace (Sue Jones-Davies), Echo struggles to control her emotions when confronted by the painful ghosts of the past.
There are a number of grating directorial decisions that almost lead Delight down the garden path and into the fathoms of the unwatchable, including an incredibly repetitive score (all wailing vocals and clinking piano) and some unbelievably on-the-nose dialogue. However, there’s also a strange topicality to Jones’ often muddled drama. At a time when global conflicts are accessible from our own armchairs, the profession of the war photographer is arguably more crucial – and potentially life-endangering – then it’s ever been. It’s not unthinkable, then, to assume that those returning, just like combat veterans, return home irrevocably altered both mentally and physically. Balibar’s theatrics may swerve wildly from the raw to the overwrought, but it’s still nice to see a British indie director making films about things other than boozy stags and gangster scrags. It’s hardly delightful, but there’s just enough here to warrant investigation by the intrigued.