Stellar Debut ‘Donald Cried’ Makes Urgent Drama Out of Things Getting Awkward With a Friend From Back Home


The exquisite discomfort of Donald Cried, Kris Avedisian’s bracing first feature, arises from the incompatibility of former best friends. Peter Latang (Jesse Wakeman) left Warwick, Rhode Island, for college, retooling his working-class past into the model of Wall Street success. Donald Treebeck (Avedisian) stayed put, in mind as well as body. He remains an aimless high school stoner twenty years later, and still yearns for the treasured friend who made the mundane tolerable.

Cloaked in his own concerns, Peter doesn’t realize what he’ll unleash by turning up on the Treebecks’ doorstep. Donald makes him cringe, fighting back waves of regret and revulsion; he’s a living, wheezing reminder of what Peter escaped — and escaped being.

In a bitterly funny performance, Avedisian lets Donald’s freak flag fly, a big-toothed grin lighting up his face, framed by a shaggy haircut not deliberate enough to be a mullet. He can also subtly shift from awesome positivity to slumped sadness in a heartbreaking gesture of resignation.

Wakeman and Avedisian created these characters for a 2012 short and collaborated on a storyline (with Kyle Espeleta) for the feature, shot while Rhode Island was smothered in knee-deep snow, a wintry playground for frustrated men to revisit misspent youth. A cruel incident from the past that provides the film’s title reveals complicated power dynamics in Peter and Donald’s friendship, which shaped their personalities. The unsettling day they spend together reminds them of how much each affected the other’s life — even after they took diverging paths.

Donald Cried
Directed by Kris Avedisian
The Orchard
Opens March 3, Angelika Film Center