October 6, 2022
Mona, performed by Agam Darshi, carves out a lifetime of isolation whereas caring for her

Mona, performed by Agam Darshi, carves out a lifetime of isolation whereas caring for her ailing conventional Sikh father in Donkeyhead.Courtesy of levelFILM

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Written and directed by Agam Darshi

Starring Agam Darshi, Stephen Lobo and Kim Coates

Classification N/A; 105 minutes

Opens in choose theatres March 11

It might be an understatement to say that Mona Ghuman, the titular character of Donkeyhead as written and performed by Agam Darshi, doesn’t have her act collectively. (”Donkeyhead” is a literal translation of a selected type of name-calling Punjabi mother and father reserve for his or her recalcitrant kids that’s without delay asinine and harsh, and might depart deep emotional scars.) Darshi performs Mona with gusto and coronary heart. That she’s additionally directed her debut function is a transparent indication of her expertise, and I’m very interested in her forthcoming tasks.

Nonetheless, Mona stays a irritating character, who by no means owns as much as her full potential – both as a wayward daughter or as a misunderstood sibling – leaving viewers with a blended bag of feelings on the finish. It’s refreshing to see one more late bloomer, churlish South Asian feminine character because the lead in a dramatic function, turning the mannequin minority fable on its head. However Donkeyhead additionally needs to play it just a little secure, and follow a script of redemption quite than flipping it altogether together with the birds that Mona flips to judgey aunties. It’s a disgrace as a result of the writing then turns into quite formulaic than groundbreaking in a movie that tries to tread new floor in telling a South Asian diasporic story.

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Set in Regina, Donkeyhead is about Mona begrudgingly caring for her father, who has been identified with most cancers, for seven years. She lives within the household house she grew up in, making an attempt to work on a draft of a yet-unfinished novel, when she’s not caring for her bedridden father. However actually, she’s procrastinating, stuffed with self-doubt. If that’s not sufficient, she’s additionally having an affair with a a lot older, married man Brent (Kim Coates). We later study that Brent can be the Ghuman household lawyer, which makes issues awkward, to say the least.

After her father suffers a stroke and falls right into a coma, Mona should name her three siblings: Rup (Huse Madhavji), Sandy (Sandy Sidhu) and Parm (Stephen Lobo). The trio arrives collectively, though they stay in New York, London (England, I’m assuming) and Toronto, driving in the identical Uber trip from the airport to their outdated house. Quickly after the siblings step inside the home, the bickering begins.

Sandy thinks their father needs to be within the hospital, the place he can obtain correct care. Parm and Rup don’t disagree – particularly since Parm is a bona fide physician who explains that it’s uncommon for stroke sufferers to get up from their coma. However the brothers additionally attempt to be aware of Mona’s persistence in caring for his or her father. So as to add to the mayhem, their aunt (Balinder Johal) needs to arrange a three-day paath (a prayer service) on the Ghuman household house, which Mona factors will likely be an open invitation to all of the desi aunts and uncles – and their kin – within the neighbourhood and past to come back over for limitless cups of chai and pakoras.

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Mona stays a irritating character who by no means owns as much as her full potential, leaving viewers with a blended bag of feelings on the finish.Courtesy of levelFILM

Issues come to a head when the household will is revealed, and a sequence of secrets and techniques come tumbling out of creaking closets. Harsh phrases are dished out and indignant tears are spilled. Every sibling is proven to have their very own fault traces. Whilst Mona tries to come back to phrases together with her failures, she continues to to be muleheaded in different methods. When a partial motivation for Mona’s obstinacy is revealed on the finish, it doesn’t clarify her behaviour. The reconciliation on the finish feels borne out of a necessity to tie issues collectively.

Even when Darshi hasn’t written Mona from private expertise, she clearly is aware of the character intimately, and offers Mona a type of cussed vulnerability that’s completely relatable. She’s determined for an acknowledgment from her father and siblings, which by no means is available in her presence. Lobo, Sidhu and Madhavji play her siblings with sincerity – their love tempered with begrudging concern.

The problem comes, nevertheless, from Darshi’s try and redeem Mona ultimately. The perfect of dysfunctional households are troublesome to handle. Any type of peace negotiations that happen at household gatherings often have an undercurrent of pressure lurking beneath, which threatens to bubble up. Partings are often paired with uneasy truces. Outdated wounds are seldom healed; quite scabs kind over them, protecting years of resentment, till they’re picked at once more.

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Mona’s reconciliation, then, feels extra like wishful considering than an try and dig deeper into her character. If Darshi had actually embraced Mona’s messiness, it might need made for a extra significant, even when tentative, conclusion.

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