AEFF review: Donald Cried

Excruciating comedy wrings affection from absurdity. A sterling debut.

Taking a leaf out of the David Brent school of excruciating car crash comedy you can’t peel your eyes away from, writer/director Kristopher Avedisian’s debut feature Donald Cried is painfully funny.

Expanded from his short by the same name and screening as part of the second annual American Essentials Film Festival, it stars co-writer Jesse Wakeman as Peter, a Wall Street banker who has begrudgingly returned to small town Rhode Island where he grew up to pack up his recently deceased grandmother’s home. Intending to get in and out as soon as humanly possible, a lost wallet soon puts paid to that idea.

After a brief run-in with old flame and now real estate agent Kristin (Louisa Krause), whom he pretends not to remember, a street meet with former best friend Donald (Avedisian), long-since estranged, suggests a rather callous plan. Needing to borrow money and a mode of transport in Donald’s car, Peter hopes to mine the good will of the admittedly bizarre and probably mentally unwell Donald while minimising their catch up time. Needless to say, Donald has other ideas.

From the porn and heavy metal poster-clad walls of Donald’s childhood bedroom to their secret tunnel dope stash, the fleeting visit seems to have transported Peter back to their teenage misdemeanours, a space from which the Tourette’s-mouthed Donald appears never to have progressed.

Even as Peter’s blood boils at Donald’s Brent-like awfulness, something thaws in his icy sneer as they traverse the icy street’s of their long-forgotten youth. For his part, Donald’s apparently stunted development hasn’t robed him of his innate ability to recognise Peter’s two-faced distancing while benefitting form his kindness and begins to turn the game against him. The situations may be heightened to absurdity, but as with Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann, the brittle disregard masks deep emotional scars that will out. Avedisian wrestles this shift skilfully. In truth, we’re not laughing at Donald, but with him, and Peter, the man who many moons ago made him cry, is the one who must shape up.

Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords

★★★★

Catch Donald Cried at the American Essentials Film Festival here.