Two childhood friends: a well-to-do banker and a fully-grown man-child meet again after twenty years of absence. They could not seem more different. Polar opposites: rational and irrational, cold and overtly friendly, adult and child. As Donald Cried progresses, their similarities are revealed in a way that seeks to show how layered the two characters are and how they cannot be separated.
The premise is simple. Peter (Jesse Wakeman) returns to his small hometown to sort out the affairs of his late grandmother. After having lost his wallet, he seeks the aid of his old friend Donald (Kris Avedisian, also the director) – who displays child-like qualities and an unceasing smile that, when it disappears, puts you on edge for an unexpected outburst. Donald tries to reconnect with his old friend and unnervingly follows him around everywhere, including the crematorium. The film traces the the course of their day, slowly developing the background and psychology of the two characters, indicative of the film’s sophistication.
It is difficult to not sympathise with the two of them: one who hasn’t been able to move on, and the other who is unable to reconnect with his past
It is set within an atmosphere of small-town mentalities, which suits the slightly claustrophobic aura that is also promoted by the dense snow that covers all. Every character is a reminder of the past and everyone seems to know each other. It is a movie that makes you feel uncomfortable and tests your patience. While you begin the film thinking that Donald is the annoyance – clingy and inappropriate in his lack of social boundaries, it is really Peter who becomes the antagonist of the duo. While Peter is able to restrain himself, he is also revealed to be deeply selfish throughout – asking for money even when it’s clear Donald has very little, and manipulating situations to suit himself. He does have redeemable moments, such as when him and Donald get high together in their old secret hideout. This is used to show how they used to play as children; climbing a tree, having a snowball fight. It is difficult to not sympathise with the two of them: one who hasn’t been able to move on, and the other who is unable to reconnect with his past. It also leads to one of the most interesting stylistic moments, where the two go into what I assume is an abandoned warehouse and light is used as an intriguing feature. It is an important part of the film, showing how close they were in an otherwise bleak outlook on their relationship.
This child-like abandon is ultimately let down by Peter’s selfishness, when he leaves Donald to go on a date. The image of the cheerful Donald with powdered sugar covering his mouth (and much of his face) makes it difficult to see him then left by his best friend. It is such a strange dynamic, because while Donald is inherently annoying, it is also difficult to not sympathise with the poor guy. He has a complete lack of social etiquette, but is also completely well meaning in his own way. In an early scene, he tells Peter about a porn star whose vagina he has as a poster of on his wall (as pictured above). He is enthusiastic, and strangely not creepy, discussing her philosophies and how she could do anything she wanted, but he was glad she decided to be a porn star. This all culminates in him asking Peter, ‘Do you masturbate still?’. Donald is a contradictory character that benefits from his successful portrayal by Avedisian. Despite it all, I cannot dislike him.
It is a bittersweet tale, which shows the flaws and repressions that build up in long-term friendships.
The movie is an analysis of their relationship, because despite their (several) fallouts they keep being drawn back together. They are linked by their past and present and have a deeply problematic relationship that is, regardless, still a friendship. ‘I want you to fucking respect me!’ Donald shouts at Peter, and it is ultimately this that their whole relationship, and the film, is about. While Peter is a seemingly normal guy, albeit standoffish and cold, we find out he’s done some terrible things to Donald. He is a bully and fundamentally a bad friend. While Donald does some pretty bad things too, it is not out of an inherent wickedness.
It is a bittersweet tale, which shows the flaws and repressions that build up in long-term friendships. A detailed study of the two characters, Donald Cried should be commended for it. I can’t escape the fact that some of the parts that were perhaps intended to be funny were too cringe-inducing for me, and that it sometimes felt like a struggle to watch. This should not be seen as a problem, but rather that the movie is not light watching (with the trailer perhaps overstating the comedic element). The end shot of Donald’s face staring at where Peter has left is heart breaking, and demonstrates how skilled Kris Avedisian is both as director and actor (and writer). He leaves us wondering what comes next after such an impressive first feature.
Donald Cried is out for limited release in the United States on 3rd March 2017.
Image: The Orchard