Short Take: Donald Cried

(Kris Avedisian, USA, The Orchard, Opens March 3)

A perfect illustration of Freud’s links between jokes and the unconscious—or just why it sucks to go home—Kris Avedisian’s debut feature is essential post-holiday viewing. Manhattan finance guy Peter (Jesse Wakeman) has returned to his snowbound Rhode Island hometown for the first time in 20 years to put his deceased grandmother’s estate in order. However, matters are immediately complicated when he discovers he has lost his wallet and impulsively decides to call upon his long-lost, longhaired high-school bestie, Donald (Avedisian), for help. Still living at his mom’s house (albeit with signed porn-star posters on his wall), Donald alternates between exacting profoundly dark psychological revenge upon Peter for humiliating him years ago and being an idiot manchild.

While most films go out of their way to argue that these two dispositions are polar opposites, the brilliance of Donald Cried lies in showing how they are connected. After being physically abused and demeaned by his arcade parlor boss, Donald insists that Peter participate in a game of football to appease a crazy guy to whom he owes money—an opportunity Donald takes to repeatedly slam Peter into the snow. (The guy is actually a pill dealer who holds no grudges.) Whether Peter deserves this torment for his boorish headbanger past, or whether he’s truly moved on from being a selfish prick, is left unclear. It’s painfully funny to observe, even if you might have committed similar sins.