Donkeys – released in 2010, and winning Best Film at the 2011 BAFTA Scotland Awards – was the second release in a planned trilogy from the Scottish-Danish “Advance Party” collaboration. The first instalment was 2006’s Red Road and characters from that film Stevie (Martin Compston) and Jackie (Kate Dickie) return to play parts in a very different story. Tony Curran’s Clyde from Red Road also makes the most fleeting of cameo appearances.
The most central characters are however old friends Alfred (James Cosmo) and Brian (Brian Pettifer). The film begins with the pair sitting in an empty looking Glasgow Airport, preparing to set off for a new life in Spain, however the plans stall and we soon learn that Alfred is not a well man. He sets out to straighten out parts of his life before it is too late – including trying to reconnect with his daughter Jackie and meeting and getting to know his illegitimate son Stevie, going about the latter in an unconventional way that causes awkwardness for all concerned. James Cosmo – rarely cast as a lead character – is excellent as Alfred, a man who is not a bad guy but displays some incredible stupidity that affects everyone around him.
Donkeys is a fine example of a black comedy – there are some truly touching moments, but a number of hilarious lines. Malaga being described as “basically a warm Pontin’s” and Alfred using the phrase “they get things out” when telling his granddaughter about the birds and the bees are just two of the examples of the humour that features throughout.
A wealth of Glasgow locations all across the city are used in the film, including The Barras market, Queens Park and Anderston – where Alfred’s flat is located.