It’s going on seven years since Mona (Agam Darshi), a failed Punjabi Canadian writer in her mid-30s, moved back to her childhood home to care for her father (Marvin Ishmael), who has cancer. When his health deteriorates and he lapses into a coma, Mona begins to unravel as she realizes his death would remove her only meaningful purpose in life.
Written and directed by Darshi, “Donkeyhead” is a kind of coming-of-age film, only its heroine is an extremely late bloomer. When her accomplished siblings — Rup (Huse Madhavji), Sandy (Sandy Sidhu), and Parm (Stephen Lobo), Mona’s twin brother — come home, the aimlessness of Mona’s existence is thrown into sharp relief.
“Donkeyhead” attempts to build out complex family dynamics with humor and an eye toward Sikh immigrant culture — a nosy aunt transforms Mona’s home into a reception space for relatives to pay their respects to the dying patriarch.
But Darshi’s script lacks flair, and often resorts to cringe-inducing clichés, as when Mona whisks her stuffy siblings away to a local bar and initiates a singalong to the Canadian national anthem. Secrets emerge as tensions come to a head over dad’s will and the fate of the family home, and — predictably — Mona’s siblings aren’t as put together as they seem.
The black sheep of the family who outwardly resists Sikh tradition, Mona is also in an affair with a married man, Brent (Kim Coates), who — like her father — is yet another obviously tenuous source of comfort destined to slip away. Despite her minor rebellions, Mona remains a frustratingly opaque character; a stereotypically troubled woman whose eventual awakening merits a shrug at most.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. Watch on Netflix.