You wait an age for a Don Quixote film and then two come along almost all at once. Following closely behind Terry Gilliam’s rather bizarre fantasy comes The True Don Quixote, a more grounded, low budget effort that brings a lot of heart even if it is sadly lacking in other areas.
Directed by Chris Poche, the film follows Danny Kehoe (Tim Blake Nelson), a lonely man who spends his life immersing himself in the fantasies of his favourite novels. One day after losing his job, Danny snaps and his obsession over medieval knights turns to reality when he comes to believe he is one. Fashioning himself weapons and a suit of armour from household equipment, he names himself Don Quixote of La Mancha and embarks on a quest to eliminate evil from his small town. On his travels, he adopts his noble steed Rosacea, a battered orange scooter and sidecar, whom he rides to defeat a local iron giant (an oil drilling rig). He meets neighbour Kevin (Jacob Batalon) who he recruits to be his trusted squire “Sancho” and the pair head out on their quests.
They meet many colourful characters on their travels and cause all sorts of havoc including assaulting police officers Don believes are enslaving innocent citizens (prisoners on work release). Their exploits bring them to the attention of the local police who are hot on their trail, alongside Danny’s concerned niece Janelle (Ann Mahoney) who attempts to bring him home while Don and Sancho befriend the locals in search of Don’s love, the Lady Dulche de Leche of Tabasco (the cashier in a local shop).
The True Don Quixote is everything you’d expect from a quirky indie film. Rather than a run of jokes, the humour in this film is reliant on the sheer bizarreness of the entire story and the increasingly silly situations Danny finds himself in. I spent the majority of this film feeling vaguely amused at the whole thing and this was mainly due to the performance of Tim Blake Nelson, who turns in an incredibly heart-warming and believable turn as Danny. I’m sure there are many people out there, myself included, who wished that they lived in a real-life fantasy story and Nelson brings this idea to life without it ever seeming disingenuous or over the top. He also has good chemistry with co-star Jacob Batalon, and the pair together provide much of the heart and amusement on offer here especially with Kevin’s reactions to Danny’s crazy actions.
While there is a large amount of heart and general amusement in this film, it is sadly lacking in other areas. It portrays an incredibly silly and amusing overall story but seems to lack genuine laughs or jokes. The film itself is rather one big joke and despite a short run time, the lack of laughs begins to become noticeable after a while. It also prefers to concentrate on this overall silly story rather than delve deeper into Danny’s state of mind and his obvious mental health issues. I can understand why they wanted to keep this light-hearted, but shedding some light on the seriousness of the situation may have helped to push this into something a lot more impressive.
Overall, The True Don Quixote is a nice, silly film that provides enough amusement and good performances to keep you watching, however, it’s missing any real bite or punch that would make it significantly more memorable.
Signature Entertainment presents The True Don Quixote on Digital Platforms 2nd August
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!