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Donkeys [DVD]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 June 2013
This 2010 directorial debut (full feature) film by Scot Morag McKinnon is a slow-moving, bleak, darkly comic and intimate tale of a small (family) group of working people in Glasgow. OK, this is, of course, a subject that has been done many times before (and, I would say, more impressively elsewhere), but nevertheless McKinnon's film is a promising effort, not exactly dynamite dramatically, but filled with enough moments of emotional power and dark hilarity to certainly make it worth a watch. As far as I can tell, Donkeys receive no (or only a very limited) cinema release south of the border, which is a shame if, like me, you don't tend to gorge on the superficial thrills and CGI effects now required for most multiplex film releases (oh no, I'm on that hobby horse again!).

McKinnon's film charts the minimalist existence over a few days of (elderly) best friends Brian (Brian Pettifer) and Alfred (James Cosmo), who have delayed their plans to emigrate to Spain's sunnier climes, whilst the latter attempts to deal with latent health problems and mend his broken-down relationship with daughter Jackie (Kate Dickie), thereby fostering a relationship with his grand-daughter Bronwyn (Natasha Watson). Into the mix comes Stevie (Martin Compston), who has returned home to hospital-bound mother Margaret (Jackie's neighbour) and whose paths cross with (and more specifically whose parentage is the subject of debate for) Brian and Alfred, to some humorous, but tragic, effect . Whilst (for me) McKinnon's film takes some time to get going and rather peters out at the end, along the way there are some great moments of emotional engagement and comedy. This is, for me at least, not surprising given the cast that McKinnon managed to assemble. Most impressive of all are Cosmo and Pettifer - these characters are lived-in, real people, and both actors excel in their portrayals of the dour, but devoted, pals. The shot of Cosmo staring into the distance as his daughter walks away from the window of the chip shop in which owner (fat) Luigi sings Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro is a truly magical moment.

Almost as impressive is Kate Dickie's conflicted mother, torn between daughter and father, whilst, in the former role, 14-year old Natasha Watson puts in an astonishing turn as Bronwyn. Compston is solidly reliable as Stevie (more in the Alice Creed-reliable mode, rather than his outstanding debut turn in Ken Loach's Sweet Sixteen, however), whilst Natalie Press also appears in a cameo role as a hospital doctor.

On a final point of interest, the characters in Donkeys were actually created by Danish director Lone Scherfig (she of Italian For Beginners and An Education fame), a role she also fulfilled for the characters in Andrea Arnold's excellent Red Road (which also starred Kate Dickie and Martin Compston) as part of a joint Scottish/Danish film project, The Advance Party (Donkeys is the second in a planned trio of films).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a BAFTA award winning comedy from Director Morag Mckinnon. It stars James Cosmo (`Braveheart', `Troy' and `Trainspotting' to name a few) as a 64 year old Alfred, he has lost touch with his family after causing a major upset some ten years previously. Then he has a bit of a turn and has to be taken to Hospital where he is told that he has had a heart attack and the prognosis is not very good.

So he decides to make amends with his estranged daughter and his as yet unknown grand daughter. He has a best and long suffering mate played by the always reliable Brian Pettifer. To say his daughter is less than pleased to see her estranged father is putting it mildly. But he is persistent and also ludicrously conniving in order to get his way. Next on the scene is ex con next door neighbour Stevie, played by Martin Compston (`Sweet Sixteen' and `Piggy'), his mother is dying from cancer and has never told him who his father is. Well as the past catches up so does the truth and with it quite a few laughs and a bumpy journey for all involved.

This is a really touching and human film. No one is perfect but trying to do what they think is best and as in real life not always getting the intended consequences. I can see why it was critically acclaimed and am amazed that it did not garner more, much deserved attention. The attention to detail is brilliant, the Glasgow setting adds to the atmosphere and with a strong performance from everyone this is a very rewarding watch.

There is a particularly good showing from Kate Dickie (`Perometheus') playing Alfred's' daughter Jackie, but James Cosmo really carries this and it is nice to see him in a starring role for a change. If you like a bit of real life and your comedies very dark indeed, then I think this will be one for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 September 2012
When I missed my chance to see this in the cinema, I was pretty gutted and even more so when I heard it had won best film at the scottish BAFTAs.

So waiting for almost a year for it to be released, I was worried my expectations would be anticlimactic but I'm happy to say the film delivered, the whole cast give an outstanding performances in what is certainly an original story. This film will keep you enticed right until the credits start rolling, definitely see this film, it was worth the wait.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 September 2012
I bought this film as I'm a big British Cinema and Martin Compston fan. Martin is excellent in this, but it's James Cosmo who really blew me away. He had me in tears one minute and laughing out loud the next.
This film is a real gem, a truly black comedy. I highly recommend it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 August 2012
Lots of laugh out loud moments. Cosmo shines in this dark comedy. The double act with Pettifer feels so real and how Compston managed to keep a straight face is beyond me. Kate Dickie is a joy.
This film deserved its BAFTA!
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on 8 May 2015
Saw this on tv a few months ago, and bought a copy to keep and show other people.
Really great. And not too long either
Received it just a few days after ordering.
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Very worthwhile hour or so, watching a wonderful group of actors against a bleak Glasgow backdrop. Increasingly moving and strangely optimistic at the end.
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on 10 November 2012
Great Scottish indie film. Highly recommended. This film won a Scottish Bafta. If you like peter Mullen, Lynn Ramsey etc then you'll enjoy it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 11 March 2013
This is a worthwhile watch, great acting by all main characters, maybe lacking a little in the writing as the dialogue could have been much sharper- especially with a cast that could have delivered
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2013
Film was ok but you could see why there was no cinema release. Martin Compston was very good and the settings were great
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