Samson and Delilah are two 14-year-olds who live in an Aboriginal community near Alice Springs. Samson sniffs petrol every morning. He lives in a run-down shelter with his brother's band playing reggae music, all day, right outside his bedroom. Samson is interested in Delilah, who lives with her grandmother. He throws a rock at her outside the local convenience store. In spite of mocking encouragement from her grandmother Delilah is not interested in him. Samson spends a day following Delilah around. He attempts to move in with Delilah. Delilah's grandmother dies and the old women in the community blame her 'neglect' for her grandmother's death and thrash her with sticks. Samson in a fit of rage beats his brother with a stick to shut him and his band up. His brother beats him up. Samson steals a car and takes Delilah with him to Alice Springs where they live rough under a bridge over the dry bed of the Todd River. Gonzo, a deranged homeless man living there helps them. Samson continues to sniff petrol. At one point, he gets so high from the fumes that he does not notice when Delilah is taken by a group of white teenagers in a car. She is raped and bashed, but she eventually comes back to Samson, who is unconscious with petrol intoxication. She begins sniffing petrol too. Under the same circumstances as her abduction, they are both walking along the street and Delilah is hit by a car. When Samson eventually comes to and realises she has been hit he believes she is dead, and cuts off his hair as a sign of respect. He spends weeks sitting in the same position under the bridge sniffing petrol as a means of getting over Delilah's death. Delilah comes back and rescues Samson, and they are both brought back to their old village. As they arrive one of the community's old women begins to beat Samson with a stick for stealing the community's only car. Delilah decides to take Samson away to a secluded area, as a way of rehabilitating, and getting over his petrol sniffing habit. Eventually Samson stops sniffing petrol, and over time Delilah is able to coax him back to his original state.
Based on 48 reviews, the film holds a 94% Fresh rating on the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The critical consensus states that "Alternately beautiful and heartrending, Samson and Delilah is terrifically acted and shot, and presents a complex portrait of what it means to be Australian." Samson and Delilah received five stars from both Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton on At The Movies, and was the only film to receive such a rating from the hosts in 2009.
Craig Mathieson of SBS awarded the director's debut feature film four stars out of five, commenting that "the picture has an intrinsic sweetness, a genuine belief in the power of an individual’s love, but it is offset by a brutal worldview. "