I get the feeling that the person who wrote the synopsis for DONKEYOTE was faced with the task of selling a movie that doesn’t really have a plot. I mean, it doesn’t not have a plot. It’s just that it also starts with one guy who thinks one thing and by the end, nothing’s really changed. Well, nothing except maybe you.
Manolo is a guy from Spain. He’s quite old, with two adult daughters, several dogs, and a donkey he’s named Gorrión. As he says in a video to an unnamed company, he and Gorrión have become true friends and lifelong companions. With the respect he shows for Gorrión as a donkey, I believe it.
He loves his animals. He sees them not as children who will never grow up (as I admit I’ve been guilty of) or as tools for his use (which I, as a person who eats meat, am also guilty of). He sees animals as animals, each with their own personalities and dignities and limitations. Indeed, a late part of his walk involves him convincing Gorrión to cross a bridge onto a ferry.
It takes a day long pit stop, but he finally gets Gorrito to board the boat on the second day.
He loves his children as adults who are independent of him. He loves his solitude. He loves his country. He may prefer the old ways that he’s been doing things since he was a young man, but he never lashes out at technology. Instead, he’s content to walk his donkey and his dog along the path beside the train, instead.
The conflict between the old world he’s a part of and the new world Spain has become comes back time and again. He’s insistent on sleeping rough under the stars, but his rest is ruined by a fellow camper blasting eurotrash techno. He’s insistent on walking the Trail of Tears, but it’s rather hard to get a donkey onto a boat for anything less than millions of pesetas. (I know he knows it’s been replaced by the Euro, but I am certain he doesn’t care.)
The movie itself is shot with a poetic eye for detail in lush, rich colours in truly appropriate cinemascope. Shots focus on hands, leads, tails, paws, bridges. Shots are left out of focus for seconds on seconds as you realize that the colours themselves are what you’re meant to be watching. Manuel and Gorrión are shot against sunsets and sunrises as they make their journey across the countryside.
Does a movie need to have a plot to be good? I know it needs to have a plot to be sold, but I don’t know what good comes of “selling” DONKEYOTE. It’s pretty charming. Charming enough to sell itself, if you give it a shot. THREE AND A HALF STARS