‘Donald Cried’ is a Welcome Twist on the Man-Child Movie

GameStop, Inc.

Donald Cried

Cinema has had a long-standing love affair with affable doofuses stuck in a state of arrested development. However, more often than not these characters live in a bubble free of consequences where they can wreak havoc on the life of the story’s straight man without incurring any of the ramifications from their actions. That’s not the case with the character of Donald in the new pitch black comedy Donald Cried from director Kristopher Avedisian, who is also the star and co-writer of the film. Donald Cried has a goofy outsider at its heart and he does live in his own odd little world, but there’s an emotional core to the character that subverts the standard of the man-child genre which makes Donald Cried a darkly comic, emotionally honest piece of filmmaking.

Peter (Jesse Wakeman) has just returned to his hometown following the death of his grandmother. In a stroke of bad luck, Peter has left his wallet on the bus which he rode into town. In his brief visit, the banker currently living in New York City has a few things on his agenda – secure the final cremated remains of his grandmother, scatter her ashes, and arrange for her home to be sold. With no money or ID it’ll be difficult for Peter to complete his assorted tasks, although that takes a change when he encounters his childhood friend Donald (Avedisian). Still living in his father’s home, though his father has passed away, Donald seems like he was pulled out of another era, lacking in social skills and style sense as evidenced by his oversized glasses and choppy haircut. Donald is only happy to see his long lost friend, and is more than willing to help in any way possible although his means are quite limited. Over the course of the day the two reminisce about the past, though that’s typically initiated by Donald, as they ride about town completing the Peter’s various obligations. Their friendship is rekindled and destroyed during their day together as wounds old and new are opened up.

The comedy of Avedisian’s film (co-written with Wakeman and Kyle Espeleta) is strongly rooted in its characters and the dynamic that emerges between Peter and Donald. As the straight man in this tragi-comedy, Wakeman gives Peter a holier-than-thou sense and you can see in the actor’s eyes that the character is just biding his time, getting as much done as possible before splitting town for good and never looking back. And yet there’s even a certain level tenderness to Peter, though Wakeman does an admirable job of keeping that fairly subtle. Conversely, Avedisian pushes Donald to the limit. The character is big and goofy, each and every action is seemingly pushing the envelope of the tenuous bond between him and Peter. This occurs in the very first meeting of the two with Donald pointing out his prized possession of a signed poster of a pornographic actress, only her exposed back end visible. And yet Avedisian doesn’t allow Donald to just exist as a caricature; this is a character that feels emotional pain and we’re witness to that in the more harrowing interactions within his complicated friendship with Peter.

Having an emotional core is the stroke of brilliance behind Donald Cries, but it doesn’t ever drown out the ample humor of the film. In every sense of the word, Donald is a character. It’s funny when he pushes the personal boundaries with Peter, the latter getting more and more irritated but trying his best to maintain his cool due to the fact that he no other recourse at the moment. You can’t help but laugh when Donald recalls following someone with Peter’s name on social media, convinced that this father is his old childhood friend. When it’s revealed that it wasn’t Peter, Donald still remarks on his excellent parenting skills. Kristopher Avedisian and company strike a strong balance between the film’s dark humor and its emotional core, which paints a picture that is like What About Bob? but with legitimate consequences and feelings for the awkward antagonist.

Donald Cried is a comedy that isn’t afraid to explore the pain behind the laughs. The film moves at a brisk pace and never languishes in one spot for too long before moving on to the next location, the next gag, or the next piece of emotional fallout from what came before it. The character of Donald himself is a remarkable creation, a man-child that feels all too real with qualities that seem universal. Kristopher Avedisian is an emerging talent behind and in front of the camera as is co-star and co-writer Jesse Wakeman. Donald Cried is an incredibly impressive directorial debut, one that is willing to go where others only suggest they might. There’s a boldness to the balance within Donald Cried, and it’s an awkwardly comic, unsettling good time.

Donald Cried
  • Overall Score
3.5

Summary

A welcome subversion of the man-child movie, Donald Cried is rooted entirely in its character as it balances some dark comedy with a genuine emotional core.

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