Spaniard Manuel refuses to lead a sedentary lifestyle. The 73-year-old loves going out for long walks with his trusty donkey, Gorrión, and his dog, Zafrana. He has a dream that he would like to go to America to walk the Trail of Tears – the route that the Cherokee took when they were forced from the East and told to make their way westward. However, he refuses to make the trip without Gorrión by his side. His doctors and his daughter think Manuel’s plan is a terrible, dangerous one, but the biggest impediment to the journey is trying to figure out just how to get the donkey over to the United States.
Donkeyote, directed by Chico Pereira, might, at first glance, seem like a story of a quixotic journey taken by an old man still metaphorically tilting at windmills, but it’s actually more about Manuel’s relationship to his daughter and to Gorrión. The outside world confuses him, and while Gorrión can be a stubborn companion (who really hates crossing bridges or manmade platforms), it’s comforting to see how this animal brings this big dreamer solace, and the love that this father has for his adult daughter, even when they disagree.
The tone of Pereira’s work here is akin to that of David Lynch’s The Straight Story, but with a donkey instead of a riding lawnmower and lower familial stakes. It’s a relaxing film that follows a protagonist that the viewer can openly question, but still admire. The only place where Donkeyote stumbles is that it appears as if a large chunk in the middle of the film that will explain Manuel’s fundraising ideas to get money for the trip in better detail has been cut for pacing. That leaves a somewhat jarring hole in the narrative, but never dampens any of the warmth.