Don Juan (2015)

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don-juan-jerzy-sladkowskiWhat a powerful documentary about our ability to be destructive to those we love. Oleg is a young Russian man with autism. He lives with his mother who wants him to be normal, sending him to multiple therapies, berating him for not being a ‘real man’ who can support and protect her. We can see she carries a bitter well of resentment and her only focus is Oleg.

Oleg is a wonderful, normal young man who is grappling with his social ineptness and difficulty understanding physical boundaries. He fears that he is a madman and will hurt anyone he befriends, the legacy of his mother’s vitriol and threats. We see the dynamic between his mother and grandmother and it is clear where the negativity has been learned.

Oleg is given advice as to what it means to be a man, what women want and expect but, thankfully, left to his own devices, he is himself. He attends a drama group where he will play Don Juan, in an attempt to help him ‘act more like a real man’. It is here, away from his mother, that we see his qualities, his tentative exploration of life and how he fits into it. A sobering tale that, I’m sure, will make audiences reflect on their own relationships.

Bechdel test – pass
3.5 stars

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