Saturday, March 12, 2016

New Directors New Films: Donald Cried

Donald Cried was screened at this year's New Directors New Films festival.

In this emotionally astute debut feature, Kris Avedisian anatomizes a type of encounter that's much more common in life than in movies: an awkward reunion between two long-estranged friends that unearths a complex mix of guilt and shame in the one responsible for the estrangement. It would be easy for a filmmaker to either make such an encounter feel tediously uneventful or to pump it full of movie-ish melodrama, but Donald Cried does neither, remaining resolutely realistic while mining plenty of pathos, humor, and drama from the situation.

When Peter (Jesse Wakeman) goes back to the faded industrial Northeastern town where he grew up for the first time in 20 years to settle his recently deceased grandmother's affairs and finds himself broke and without a ride, he reluctantly turns his former best friend, Donald (Avedisian), an overgrown boy with no boundaries and disarmingly childish fantasies, for help. Way too happy to see Peter after years of trying to find him online, Donald is quick to take advantage of his dependence, driving him everywhere but where he wants to go. Over the 24 or so hours that Donald and Peter spend together, as Peter alternately softens toward and gets infuriated by his old friend and Donald flip-flops between passive-aggressive violence and cringing compliance, the balance of power between the two keeps shifting back and forth, creating a sense of suspense that sometimes tips into dangerous instability, especially when Donald pulls a gun on Peter.

Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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