Rodrigo Moreno’s “The Delinquents” plays like a philosophical experiment. Morán (Daniel Eliás) steals just enough for a modest retirement and enlists Román (Esteban Bigliardi) to hide the money while he serves his prison sentence. Then, when he’s out, both men can live happily ever after outside the social constraints that currently bind them. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and a few years of anxiety and discomfort is nothing compared to the open life that stretches out before them when it’s all over. It’s a naive notion—that the time spent dealing with the fallout of the crime will be bearable, but if work itself is a prison, perhaps anything else feels like freedom. Of course, that’s easy to say when one has never been to prison or suffered any great hardship beyond life’s normal trials. The conditions of our existence in most societies are such that work is necessary for most people. But despite the confines of working for money in a capitalist society where leisure time is increasingly seen as for the wealthy, it still cannot be compared to actual imprisonment.
But this is a fantasy, and we are not meant to think about the world in literal terms. Moreno gives us just enough reality to relate to the two men and their desire for freedom. Capitalism is a prison in a metaphorical sense, coloring every life decision a person makes. It’s a system difficult to escape from but also a shared misfortune. Worrying about how much things cost, how much rest one can get, where to live, and how to dress is determined by how much money a person has and how much they are willing or able to part with. Everyone except the wealthy is forced to consider these variables, individually and together, within this giant web of commerce and wealth inequality. It’s understandable to want to escape and take control of your future. But what about those left behind?
Román is that person left behind to deal with the fallout of the theft, accused at work of being an accomplice. The bank bombards him with accusations and watches his every move. Security is increased at the bank, and life on the outside begins to feel much closer to prison than anything he’d experienced. Morán doesn’t fare much better in a real prison; he’s immediately beaten for hogging the phone. But after a lecture from one of the older inmates, Morán adapts to the conditions rather quickly. With his mind focused on his future, he can find comfort in his prison cell. He begins to read constantly and adopt a calmer demeanor. We learn that before his incarceration, Morán got a taste of the life he wanted. He met a beautiful woman in the country and spent hours drinking, screwing, and enjoying the simple pleasures of nature. In his mind, all he has to do is wait, and he can return to his rural paradise, picking up right where he left off.