In Canadian drama, Donkeyhead, a struggling writer is tasked with looking after her father, who is living with cancer. She is doing her best by him, but it is a difficult job, and she has little help.
When her father’s health takes a turn for the worst, her family are called in to offer assistance. However, rather than working with Mona, they cause her further headaches, especially as all of her siblings have joint power of attorney over her father’s estate.
Keen to remain in control, Mona suggests the family speak to their father’s lawyer, to find out details of his will. She believes the document will make it clear about who should be making decisions on his behalf, but finding out information about the will only causes further problems.
Much to Mona’s frustration, her father has favoured one of her siblings over her. She takes this news quite badly, and as the movie progresses, she has to deal with her own emotional fallout from the revelation.
Written, directed, and starring Agam Darshi, Donkeyhead’s cast includes Kim Coates, Sandy Sidhu, Husein Madhavji, and Stephen Lobo. The movie is available to stream on Netflix from today, and is an interesting and personal little film about family dynamics, finding your place, and dealing with grief.
The main focus of the movie is Mona’s journey and her position within the family. She has always felt like the black sheep, never good enough when compared to her more successful brothers and sister, and this forms a significant chunk of the story.
Through the course of the picture, Mona has to deal with her issues relating to this, and find someway to overcome her hurdles. But she’s not alone, her seemingly perfect siblings have their own issues too, and these come to the surface at different points in the story.
Together, the family have to work through some deep-rooted issues to find some resolution. At the backdrop of all this is their father’s declining health, and the knowledge that his journey is now coming to an end.
What’s interesting about Donkeyhead is the way the movie positions itself around Mona. She is the lead character, often driving the story, yet she’s insecure, uncertain of herself, and deeply fallible.
The movie humanises her at different points in the story, but often through her mistakes, rather than through her triumphs. She is someone who is lost and broken, who makes bad choices, and in her own words she is “under-qualified by life”.
The point of all this is to show the reality of her existence – its highs and many lows. She is not a hero, not a villain, just an ordinary person trying to do her best to make it through each day.
And ultimately that’s what this movie is all about. The film focuses on a key moment in Mona’s journey, when change is inevitable, buried problems must be addressed, and she just needs to get through to tomorrow.
With a movie of this nature, large parts of the film are steeped in sadness and hardship, so do be warned this is hard-hitting stuff, but there are some comedic moments to lighten the load. A few amusing comments from extended family members, as well as an ongoing story thread involving a taxi driver, offer a brief bit of distraction from the more difficult elements of the story.
The cast are also enjoyable to watch, and there is a great dynamic between the siblings. It all feels very real, and also very relatable.
Donkeyhead may not interest everyone, but it is a well-crafted piece of drama. It is a deeply personal picture, and one which pulls back the cover on the emotional toll of caring for someone in their dying days.
I expect this film will certainly hit home with some audiences, while others may not find themselves investing in the story. But as the debut directorial feature from Agam Darshi, it is a strong picture to kick-start her directing career with.