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Don McKay, a high school janitor who leaves his hometown after a tragedy, returns 25 years later to rekindle a romance with his old flame, who is dying, but this homecoming brings McKay more than he bargained for.





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Cast overview, first billed only:
School Secretary
Marie (as Melissa Chessington Leo)
Clerk (as Amanda Donaghey)
Bates Wilder ...
Officer Tierney
Otis Kent
Melissa Rosal ...
Meagan Hawkes ...
Colleen Simmons
Dossy Peabody ...
Cafeteria Worker


Don McKay is living a very lowly life as a janitor. Then he receives a letter from his high school girlfriend, Sonny, who announces that she is dying and that she needs him to come back home. But when Don arrives back in his hometown, he finds Sonny's doctor has a crush on her and has no intention of letting Don back into her life, and the rest of the town remembers the tragedy that drove Don away in the first place and they have no intention of letting Don come back, at least not without paying some dues. Written by napierslogs

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Some secrets are better left buried.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some violence | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

24 April 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Moment of Truth  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Director Jake Goldberger mentions in the DVD commentary that he had an extensive conversation with Sissy Spacek about her playing the role of Marie. See more »


When the taxi comes to pick Don up at Sonny's house the last time, it's obviously a different (younger) driver behind the wheel. When it cuts to the interior of the cab in the next scene, it's old Samuel driving the cab. See more »

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User Reviews

Great old-school dark comedy
29 November 2014 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

With dark comedies, the ratio of comedy to darkness is what gives a film its identity. Many modern filmmakers put an emphasis on darkness and disturbing situations like Tarantino ("Pulp Fiction") and the Coen Brothers ("Fargo"), whereas others hail from the old school approach of keeping violence to a minimum and instead drawing humor from the bizarre ways the characters act around it, such as in "Arsenic & Old Lace" (1944) or "Deathtrap" (1982).

Here in "Don McKay" we fall squarely into the old school style. There is 1 death early in the film, and the rest of the film is about the mysterious and absurd criss-crossings of schemes from each character whose intentions we don't know until the end. Apologies to Tarantino & the Coens (whose films I really like), but I prefer this sort of approach because, although it may sacrifice thrills & action, it's ultimately a style that you can enjoy on a deeper psychological level.

Don McKay (Thomas Hayden Church whom I'll always remember as the lovably slow mechanic in the 80s sitcom "Wings") is a lonely man whose entire life consists of cleaning the floors at a Boston high school. One day he receives a mysterious letter that prompts him to drop everything and hop a bus to his hometown which, by the gorgeous scenery, looks like the Pacific northwest but they're not specific. Once there, he gets wrapped up in murder, mayhem and memories. And although this is not a whodunnit, it becomes a fun mystery as we try to figure out who each character is, including our hero Don McKay, a man of very few words.

Thomas Hayden Church is brilliantly cast in the lead role, almost reprising his humorously awkward role in Wings but with a deep, observant intelligence that gives the film depth. As we piece together the bizarre characters & circumstances surrounding the death, we are also hard at work trying to figure out what makes Don McKay tick and why he is apparently running from something. Thus, there are 2 stories unfolding at the same time, and the brilliant (and hilarious!) climactic scene pulls it all together in a way that's tense, funny, enlightening and unmistakably human.

And let me dwell on that word for a minute: human. Although we are given no backstory to any of these oddball characters, each one comes across as very human. There are no wooden performances here, unless you count Thomas' deliberately wooden, stoic characterization of Don McKay. Elizabeth Shue absolutely blows this out of the park, playing a complex yet in many ways childlike character whom I can only compare to Vivien Leigh's famous performance in "Streetcar Named Desire". Melissa Leo plays a creepy, uptight nurse who is reminiscent of the demon child's nanny in "The Omen" haha. By the way, observe how her character's clothes & appearance become more frazzled & frenetic in each scene. Keith David, in one of the greatest comic-relief roles since the porter in Shakespeare's Macbeth, plays Don McKay's neurotic childhood friend, the perfect counterbalance to Thomas Hayden Church's emotionless enigma. And there are 2 fantastic bit roles (1) the cab driver played by Emmet Walsh who's been in everything from Blood Simple to Bladerunner; and (2) Pruitt Taylor Vince as "Mel" the dorky crook who looks like he would be more comfortable working at Best Buy than being part of any sort of murder story.

I also give major old school points to the director for pulling off some hilarious sight gags. Not corny slapstick but funny visual compositions that had me LOLing (for example when Thomas & Melissa are in a car together, each totally distrusting the other, alternately stealing intense looks without the other person noticing). The final climactic scene with its brilliantly comedic script also had me LOLing, especially "So why don't you just drop the... AXE??" (as if to point out the hilarious note: who keeps an axe in their living room?).

If you enjoy subtle situational humor, as in other indie gems like "Buffalo 66", "Grand Theft Parsons" or "The Maiden Heist" (sorry I can't think of any popular films to compare this to, except maybe "Punch Drunk Love"), then don't miss "Don McKay".

2 of 2 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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