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Home | Film Review: Don Mckay (2009)

Film Review: Don Mckay (2009)


Don McKay, a high school janitor who leaves his hometown after a tragedy, returns 25 years later to rekindle a romance with his old flame, who is dying, but this homecoming brings McKay more than he bargained for.


With the acting talent of Thomas Haden Church, Elisabeth Shue aboard, this film seemed on that merit alone to take a chance on. A rather brooding cover and throwing out my need to read any before hand synopsis was the plan at hand when tackling this one. Thomas Haden Church had always been a good bet for a solid performance so I figured, what have I got to lose. To be quite honest and partially within the first act….. I was beginning to wonder if this film would even be appropriate to review for a horror news site.

My first intuition was maybe it’s just another love story saga combined with some edgy drama. But it didn’t take long before those feelings began to become mixed with the notion like you stepped into someone else’s dream. I began to wonder is it just me or does the residents of Don Mckay’s old town feel a little odd. Maybe they were fine and something about the situation felt a little odd. Director and writer Jake Goldberger is brilliant in that sense, that he displaces audiences enough to question their own translation of the events. As per the cover art below, the film title of “Moment of Truth” was changed to the more simple but intriguing title of “Don Mckay”

But stepping too far ahead, lets round this up a bit. Don returns 25 years later to his old hometown by the request of a former love interest Sonny. She is suffering from a fatal illness that has her bedridden at times and weak at others. Though as a final act of life she asks Don to come see her. Don, a janitor for his whole life wastes no time in returning the favor by showing up at Sonny’s doorstep. She is grateful, the caretaker there is cautious and the whole event feels a bit surreal to Don and the viewing audience. Thomas’s melancholy approach is just normal enough to feel abnormal at times.

Sonny played by the alluringly charismatic and beauty Elisabeth Shue, immediately begins to rekindle a past romance in what Don finds out is a request to be married and share her remaining days with him. Melissa Leo plays Marie, the almost motherly nurse who seems to dislike Don for no apparent reason than him being a instant part of Sony’s remaining days. James Rebhorn plays the role of Dr. Lance Pryce, her local physician who also seems off kilter in his mood and way he tends to Sonny. When Don tries to take all this in with a grain of salt and a certain reluctance he soon runs into situations and oddities that just don’t add up. Abstract pictures, locals who approach him in questioning ways and of course the overbearing Sonny who seems to be all he wanted in a sudden off kilter way.

What is clever about this picture is that we don’t see the whole picture at first. Knowing the ending and outcome, it would be damaging to spoil the fun and ruin the pieces that fit together like an abstract puzzle that one tries to put together blind folded. These qualities and the character relationship form a unique bond that pulls you in and keeps you there to the climax. No, it’s not a horror film but it does have its share of mystery, drama and thriller action that add up nicely. What is more surprising is that there is also a nice balance of misdirection that combines plotlines in different ways.

At one point I began to have that sense when I first viewed the film “Nothing But Trouble” with Dan Aykroyd. Not that there is any real comparison to the cartoony feature…but it you do get a sudden sense of characters that don’t fit into the mold that we first assume. Don Mckay is pretty dynamic drama that gets better as it progresses. There is a mature script that keeps you on edge every second blended with a solid cast of great acting talent on aboard. Don Mckay may be the unexpected cult hit of 2010.

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