Review: Donald Cried / American Essentials Film Festival / Kena

Not gonna lie – for the first half hour of this film I was just about to stop watching. There was too much silence, too much unknown, and too much awkwardness. In truth, I reckon this film is built off awkwardness. Donald Cried is about a guy (Peter) who returns to his hometown to sort his late grandmother’s estate and affairs. Upon losing his wallet, he goes to find his old best friend (Donald) to borrow some money and get a lift. What follows is both insanely cringeworthy and uplifting.

In the first half hour, we basically see Peter get in his pickle and contact Donald, and we get a pretty solid understanding that Donald has a completely different idea of their friendship than Peter does. Donald is this goofy, awkward guy who brings up totally uncool stuff from the past and shares it with strangers, completely embarrasses Peter, whilst also being simple enough to not take any of Peter’s social cues (of which the most common was “shut up the f*** up, Donald”).

Their relationship is so strained that it is borderline painful to watch, but as the film goes on we see their reconnection very slowly unfold, with the help of a hilarious plot twist that I won’t spoil for you. Peter finds happiness in this old town he used to hate, and Donald gets to relive some of his better childhood years with his best mate. They share a pleasant, but still slightly strained, afternoon spreading Peter’s grandmother’s ashes, playing in the snow and revisiting old cubby homes… It seems the two are finally coming up on some closure, until BOOM – girl problems, a sock to the face, dodgy family history, and the smashing of Peter’s grandmother’s ashes urn, which all set the whole plot on fire again, but in the best way possible.

This film is great in that it really keeps your attention, despite having long scenes which you just want to end – there’s an element of the unknown, which is present in every movie because you don’t know what’s going to happen, but not always in the forefront of your mind. Some movies you can just sit back and let the unknown events play across your screen and just view them as they occur, but with Donald Cried, it retains that juicy excited trepidation of what’s going to happen next!

I’d also like to draw attention to the scenes in the snow when Donald and Peter are talking. I don’t know about you guys but I personally don’t have that much experience with snow, and so this scene was really poignant for me because I didn’t realise that snow was silent. I was unaware of just how quiet snow is – I saw the white flecks running down the frame, but heard nothing, almost as if in production they’d cut out the sound of the snow. I certainly felt as if something was missing, like you’d notice if the sound of rain was missing… Within a few minutes I’d gotten used to it, and could just enjoy the clarity of sound of what the characters were saying, and appreciate the snow as an element of the [emotional] atmosphere. I felt very peaceful in that scene, and I hope that was what the makers of the film intended, as it is a bit of a turnaround point for the characters – instead of duelling with each other’s personalities, they’d reached almost-harmony with each other.

I’d definitely watch Donald Cried again – it makes you laugh, it makes you sad, uncomfortable, shocked and happy, all within a neat hour and a half that is uplifting and affirming. You’ll come away with a smile.

Donald Cried
American Essentials Film Festival

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