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There’s probably not a one of us who hasn’t had a friend or classmate in school that would best be labeled as awkward, someone who is a little off center, a little out of touch, and a lot uncomfortable. The good thing though is that for most of us, we leave and never have to deal with them again. Most of us. Some of us though are more deeply connected than we might admit.
For Peter Latang (Jesse Wakeman), that awkward friend is Donald (Kris Avedisian). They were once school friends though Peter left town long ago and made a life for himself far from his past. When he is forced to return after his grandmother dies he thinks it will be an easy thing, clear up the estate and slip out unnoticed. However, when he loses his wallet he’s got no choice but to call Donald, who lives next door. Clearly it’s a difficult decision, but he knuckles through and asks for help. What he might already know but doesn’t want to admit is that it will be the start of a bizarre odyssey that will take him on a day-long adventure of personal discovery.
Written and directed by Avedisian, in his feature film debut, Donald Cried is everything you expect in a quirky indie comedy and yet everything you don’t. There are no heroes here and the quirky set up the film seems destined to follow is anything but as the story is much more a darkly comedic examination of an unhealthy relationship forged long ago than a light bit of awkwardness. It all amounts to a tug-of-war with how to feel as we naturally identify quickly with Peter first as Donald is painfully uncomfortable to watch, his erratic behavior one thing but his unfiltered mouth another. One scene after another seems to prove he is the worst kind of person to be around. And yet, there is a slow burn of change at play and we begin to realize that perhaps Peter isn’t quite so great himself.
What sells it most is the rawness of it all, with everything on screen unnervingly authentic, with Wakeman and Avedisian so good together it feels unscripted, with several moments clearly improvised and yet achingly convincing. From a snowball fight to a game of pickup football, a seething, underlying layer of hurt and guilt between them simmers, keeping tension palpable. We agonize over which we should side with as both continually ride us on a see-saw of emotional highs and lows. That is surely Avedisian’s greatest gift, able to draw such realism from the material that it evolves into a kind of documentary.
Donald Cried is a strikingly intimate film, and while it is undoubtedly sometimes hard to watch as a number of purposefully crafted cringe-worthy moments test one’s patience for either of these men, they serve to build an honest and unique relationship that is quite impactful.
Movie description: Donald Cried is a comedy/drama about a man who returns to his hometown after a death in the family and encounters his long lost, childhood friend, who asks for a favor with surprising consequences.
Director(s): Kris Avedisian
Actor(s): Jesse Wakeman, Kris Avedisian, Louisa Krause
Genre: Comedy, Drama