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  True Don Quixote, The Are We Proud, Are We Brave, Or Just Crazy?
Year: 2019
Director: Chris Poche
Stars: Tim Blake Nelson, Jacob Batalon, Ann Mahoney, Morgan Roberts, Brandon Stacy, Lucy Faust, Ankur Bhatt, Roy Blount Jr, Natalie Boyd, Kristin Daniel, Dave Davis, Criss Green, Jason Kirkpatrick, Sam Malone, Anthony Marble, Darcel White Moreno
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dan Kehoe (Tim Blake Nelson) lives for books, he used to be a librarian in this quiet small town but now the place has been closed down, and despite his protest he will not be allowed to keep all the books before they are scrapped. Therefore he has spent the time since living in the family home with his niece Janelle (Ann Mahoney), who essentially looks after him, reading as much as he can, with the tales of old when knights were bold proving a particular attraction. His favourite among these is Don Quixote, who it seems to have escaped his attention was not a real knight, even in fictional form.

But the concept of heading out into the world as an exemplar of chivalry becomes irresistible as Dan spends all his time alone until - look out, world! The problem that if Kehoe was really that invested in the Cervantes book, then he would be well aware of all the rich ironies it employed and actively sent up Don Quixote rather than presenting him as the epitome of good sense, but we were supposed to take it as, er, read that our hero draws all the wrong lessons from the story. So what you had was one of them "ain't mental illness cute?" comedies, or comedy dramas anyway, which could strike a chord in many audiences - efforts like Harold and Maude, They Might Be Giants or The Fisher King enjoy strong followings to this day.

Though some of these were more credible than others, to its credit, Chris Poche as adapter and director was keen to deliver a twinkly fantasy of what would happen had Quixote been a genuine person. That credit came when it realised Dan is content in his madness, and asked whether he should be dragged kicking and screaming back to sanity, or the heavily medicated version of sanity, when he would be far happier living out his alter ego under the daze of his psychosis. The film acknowledged that he can do serious damage to himself in the process, not merely because he gets into physical peril on his newly acquired trusty steed (a motor scooter and sidecar) but can meet the wrong sort of person who will not be as benevolent towards his condition than certain other people would be, and come to harm that way.

Even his stand-in Sancho Panza sidekick (Jacob Batalon), who not quite convincingly goes along with the delusions, cannot bring Dan around to seeing things as they are, and the consensus reality rules for the audience too, as we get the whole picture. The ace in the pack was Nelson, just about convincing us that Kehoe would be behaving like a crazy person in this scenario, and for a character who was permanently off in his own little world, at least believable in his dedication to that world over the real one which will just break his heart. Or indeed his head. He was really the reason to watch, since the rest of it was a somewhat overbearing literary conceit that may be easier to follow than Terry Gilliam's famously folly-bound variation on Cervantes, which took far longer to complete and with far bigger budgets than this, with around the same impact.

But The True Don Quixote could have done with the madness of that celebrated and to be honest, more inspired director's vision to give it a little pep. As it was, with its banal small community setting it was a shade too close to an episode of My Name is Earl that became pretentious all of a sudden, the humour was in that vein aside from the occasional burst of violence to remind us what was at stake should Dan sustain his curious take on reality. You felt sorry for him more than you laughed at him, it had to be said, despite his immersive illusions making him relatively cheerful. As to whether this was accurately what would happen if the tale were true in the twenty-first century, as the title promised it would turn out to be, you kind of doubt the public's general reaction would be quite as welcoming in so many quarters; admittedly, not everyone is happy to see a madman approaching, sword drawn for battle. Music by Jay Weigel (with folksy songs by Poche).

[Signature Entertainment presents The True Don Quixote on Digital Platforms 2nd August 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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