SXSW Film Festival, 2016
There’s something to be said for working within familiar genre tropes and hallmarks … and still managing to turn out something interesting. Kris Avedisian’s understated yet subversive take on the coming home indie dramedy, “Donald Cried,” provides just that – but not just that. The story of these two estranged former friends, reunited when one returns to their working class Rhode Island neighborhood, sneaks into some unpleasant crevasses of a fraught relationship.
Repeated interactions between visiting Wall Street hotshot Peter (Jesse Wakeman) and attic-dwelling Donald (Avedisian, in front of the camera) do not rekindle nostalgic memories. Rather, illusions shatter with each successive encounter, and past events that both recall rather innocuously are recast to show the hot-headed Peter outright disparaging the odd Donald. To their credit, neither Wakeman or Avedisian play the roles as traditional “types” that play into an established power dynamic of bully and victim. Watching them flip advantage based on humiliation or ignorance makes “Donald Cried” a live wire watch from minute to minute, with the settling position of their relationship never obviously discernible.
Avedisian, a first-time director, achieves all of this without reaching for emotion in close-ups or relying heavily on reaction shots. He trust his instincts and his actors to do the work right and create a tense atmosphere on their own. The harmoniously executed discord that ensues leaves a bittersweet taste – just as he wants it. “Donald Cried” lingers by frustrating our expectations just enough to wonder why we’re still a little upset by the end. B+ /