After Andrea Arnold’s “Red Road,” Morag McKinnon’s “Donkeys” is the second pic in the “Advance Party” trilogy, with three frosh helmers each tackling a film about the same Glaswegian characters (though the stories are not necessarily connected). Focus here shifts from Kate Dickie’s CCTV operator to her cantankerous father, Alfie (James Cosmo), and the pic itself moves from an accomplished auteur film to an uneven familial comedy-drama that, like “Road,” relies too much on late-in-the-game reveals. Some fests have come a-callin’ but pic will make more moolah as the middle disc in the box set, if the trilogy is completed.
Main problem is the screenplay, which piles on too many twists (illnesses, deaths, paternity issues) to remain in the realm of realism, and switches gears too frequently and jarringly between comedy and melodrama. A suicide perfectly illustrates scripter Colin McLaren and helmer McKinnon’s inability to make pathos and humor coexist in a single scene. Cosmo is fine but unexceptional, and Dickie and Martin Compston, both encoring, do a lot with very little. Tech credits are serviceable rather than aces, as in “Road.”