Shayne Gray is an affluent white teen coming to grips with his closeted homosexuality. He has a girlfriend and a nice life, but at night he can't resist the pull of the cruising strips and adult-video parlors. Thang Chan is the half-Vietnamese, half-black young man Gray meets while cruising. The two embark on a short-lived, ill-fated love affair that consists mostly of talking before heading their separate ways. An ultra-low-budget film written and directed by Ira Sachs, The Delta tackles a lot of red-flag issues: sexuality, class, race. Unfortunately, what it neglects to address is the psychology of its characters. Both Gray and Chan harbor deep and, in one case, shocking secrets, but it's never made clear what made these two who they are. Unfortunately, Sachs never bothers to try. While the Huck Finn parallels of a boat trip the two take down the Mississippi has potential, Sachs just as quickly abandons that tack. The naturalistic performances are just that: Neither Gray nor Chan had acted before this film, and they both do a fine job in tough roles. But amateur actors and warts-and-all camerawork can't distract from the limitations of a simple script. While the structure of The Delta—sort of a tag-team narrative that begins with Gray and switches to Chan halfway through—is an intriguing touch, this gritty film never follows through on the issues it raises.
More from The A.V. Club