Donald Cried (2017)
Director: Kristopher Avedisian
Overveiw: A frazzled man returns home when his grandmother dies only to find himself beset upon by a troubled acquaintance that he soon becomes indebted to.
Synopsis: Following its premiere at South by Southwest in 2016, Donald Cried saw theatrical release earlier this year. Serving as the directorial debut of lead actor and screenwriter Kristopher Avedisian, Donald Cried is an unsettling dark comedy about fraternal friendship. As Donald Treebeck, Avedisian has crafted one of the most accurate portrayals of the surreal nature beholden to an inherently juvenile intimacy.
When Peter LaTang (Jesse Wakeman) returns to his childhood neighborhood to take care of his deceased grandmother’s affairs, he soon discovers that he left his wallet at the train station. Lacking any other resources by which he might get around town before heading back to his adult life as a big city banker, he begrudgingly surrenders to the myopic whim of Donald (Avedisian).
Over the course of the film’s trim 85-minute runtime, Donald Cried tactfully manages to navigate the tumultuous waters of trying to rekindle a friendship forged by one’s own former naïve self. Anyone who has ever considered becoming friends again with someone that they went to high school with, but haven’t seen or spoken to in several years, should be more than familiar with the specificity of Avedisian’s nostalgic nightmare.
Sometimes the friends we make when we’re teenagers are nothing more than the most convenient options available when we’re still not cognizant of our respective selves. During a time in which one is expected to grow up and mature, high school camaraderie can quickly fade if it’s built upon little more than pop culture propagated as a shared personality. Unfortunately for the titular character in Donald Cried, heavy metal quickly comes to stand for a regressive signifier of a relationship built upon subversive enmity.
On the flip side, Donald Cried is also a touching tribute to the people who never really left the confines of home after graduating from secondary – or higher – education. For those who never really found a place for themselves in the adult world, childhood becomes an ever-present state of being that sees some lost forever in a Sisyphean prison of codependent sycophancy. Avedisian as Donald is a protagonist and an antagonist, his simpering demands upon the attention and affection of Peter (Wakeman) both a repugnant deterrent and familiar plea to and for our sympathies.
It’s easy to come away feeling a little unsure of what to think after watching Donald Cried for the first time. But upon repeated viewings, Avedisian’s first feature really shines a light on one of the more peculiar aspects of childhood and growing up. Who we were in high school continues to affect how we strive to present ourselves to others as an adult, the latter state of being a past that is often a painful reminder of formative experiences. Avedisian has merely pulled back the curtain on a secret shame that many of us know all too well, but are less than willing to welcome back into our lives. By giving that existential foreboding corporeal form, Donald Cried delivers one of the most unforgettable independent features this year, and it would be a real shame if nobody noticed.
Featured Image: The Orchard