Donnie Darko


Directed by: Richard Kelly
Written by:Richard Kelly
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle
Released: October 17, 2002
Grade: A

Great movies are usually those in which the plot cannot be simplified in a single sentence.  Not only does that rule apply to Donnie Darko, I believe it to be a physical impossibility to fully explain this film at all.

After a mind-blowing experience, I exited the cinema with no comprehension of the ending and its significance.  Most everyone else has been left with this same impression and this has resulted in abundant debate.  Some argue the film is a masterpiece while others proclaim it as a load of garbage.

An interesting point the film notes is that in today’s “black and white” world, people have become “brainwashed” into following convention and thinking alike.  As the film’s self-proclaimed life guru, Jim Cunnigham (Swayze) preaches, all there is to life is “love” and “fear”.  Of course this is hogwash but people who write this film off because they don’t get it are thinking just as narrow mindedly.  It is deep, and like another of this year’s great films, Mulholland Drive, even multiple screenings won’t help answer all the questions.

The film begins with our introduction of the Darko family.  In his final year at high-school, Donnie (Gyllenhaal) is the eldest but an extremely troubled individual.  He takes medication for his depression and sees a therapist on a regular basis.  With his imaginary friends, the line between reality and fiction is permanently blurred.

On the evening of October 2, 1988, an engine from a jumbo jet plummets from the sky and crashes into the Darko home.  Donnie isn’t at home.  He woke up in the middle of the night and followed an imaginary 6-foot bunny to the nearby golf course.  The bunny told him the world was to end in 28 days.  Miraculously, none of the sleeping family were injured but surprisingly, the National Aviation Authority has no idea where the freak incident began - no planes had reported a lost engine.

Over the coming four weeks, Donnie’s life becomes upbeat when he meets a girl (Malone) and exposes serious flaws in his school’s curriculum.  He also begins an intriguing quest to learn the theories of time travel.  But the bunny is still there and is soon asking him to trash the school and burn down houses.  October 30 is soon approaching...

Jake Gyllenhaal (October Sky) gives an amazing emotional performance - one of the best of the year.  He mixes both comedy and drama - you’ll laugh at him but feel sorry for him simultaneously.  Despite being just 27 years of age, writer-director Richard Kelly has rocketed to notoriety with the intricate nature of this, his first script.  Hypnotically revolutionary.

The odds on understanding the film’s message would be equivalent to that of solving an unsolvable riddle.  To provide a example and a small glimpse into the exploration of Donnie Darko, I ask the following - is it possible to go back in time and kill one’s self?  If you kill yourself in the past, then you don’t exist in the future, so you can’t go back to kill yourself, so you keep on living.  Does the past dictate the future or does the future dictate the past?  Confused?  I am - and it feels great!