WARNING: This review will contain spoilers as I need to give away the ending to explain my interpretation of the movie. So if you have not yet seen Donnie Darko, you may not want to read this just yet.

This one’s a Must-See!

Delectable; beautifully mystifying.

Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Donnie Darko, and so he does immensely well.

I first saw this movie in the spring of 2010; I could not understand it. But I tried, and eventually I did. I saw it again in school recently; it almost felt wrong how much I understood it.

Donnie Darko is the film that made both Richard Kelly and Jake Gyllenhaal big. It is a film that has confused some and fascinated others, and for some people it’s both. I myself was confused once but I am confused no more, although it is still not hard to see why Donnie Darko can be a rather confusing piece of art to those who watch it.

Donnie Darko is the name of a teenage boy, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who lives in the suburbs with his father Eddie (Holmes Osbourne), his mother Rose (Mary McDonnell), his older sister Elizabeth (Jake’s real-life sister Maggie Gyllenhaal) and his younger sister Samantha (Daveigh Chase). He is a troubled lad who has been seeing a psychiatrist (Katherine Thurman) for some time. One night he is waken from his slumber by ghostly voice that tells him to go outside the house. Outside stands a man in a creepy-looking rabbit costume, Frank, who tells Donnie that in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds, on the night of Halloween, the world will end. Frank is played by James Duval.

Donnie was lucky that he went outside that night because the very same night, a turbine from a jet plane crashes right on his room. Strangely, however, the government know of no airliner that has lost an engine whilst flying. Almost as if the engine appeared out of thin air. After this day Donnie starts acting more strange than usual, performing sinister tasks given to him by Frank, such as flooding the school and making life miserable for local entertainer Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze), who in reality is a paedophile. He also learns about time travel, both from Frank and from Dr. Kenneth Monitoff (Noah Wyle), starts seeing the timelines of himself and his family members (he can see where they’re going before they’re there) and falls in love with Gretchen Ross (Jena Malone).

Other characters in the film include Donnie’s intelligent English teacher Karen Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore), two remarkably heartless bullies (Seth Rogen and Alex Greenwald) and a 101 years old senile woman known as Grandma Death, who waits outside her house for a letter that never comes to her mailbox. She once wrote a book about time travel; Donnie has started reading it.

Frank, the giant bunny rabbit.

The film is a confusing one indeed. But saying that it’s pure spooky randomness without plot is wrong and I do have my own interpretation of it. The film’s climax (FINAL SPOILER WARNING!), which is on Halloween night, involves Gretchen Ross getting run over by a car, the driver of which appears to be Frank, though he’s not as demonic or strange as he appeared earlier in the movie. Donnie kills this Frank by shooting him in the eye with his dad’s gun. Shortly thereafter he opens a time portal, through which he sends the engine of an airliner that got caught in a terrible storm; he sends it back 28 days. We then again see the scene where Donnie left his room at night except this time he stays inside, letting the engine destroy him.

Here’s my take: the Frank we see haunting Donnie is the same one that Donnie shot. After he got killed, Frank became some sort of powerful ghost, and used his fantastic abilities to travel 28 days back in time and make Donnie do all that bad stuff until finally he would send back the engine in time and kill himself, meaning he would never live to shoot Frank dead. I think Frank did it all to prevent his own death. I know that Richard Kelly’s version is different from mine and it has something to do with The Beings of the Future and multiple Franks, but I’m happy with my version.

Anyway, I’ve said before that I love Donnie Darko. Indeed I do; here Richard Kelly displays his talents when it comes to creating that dreamlike, eerie, beautiful atmosphere that helps the movie stay interesting and engaging. However, it should be known that the best version of Donnie Darko is the directors cut, which develops the characters better, explains the plot more and has much more well-done visual effects. Just like The Box, me and my classmates recently saw the theatrical cut in school and I did not feel as though I was watching the real movie; it didn’t seem finished.

The director’s cut is a great movie, though. Donnie Darko is a strange movie, with strange characters and strange editing. Yet the thing that I find truly strange is the film’s fanbase which seemingly consists mostly of goths, who think it’s just some gothic “edgy” horror movie. It’s a bit dark, sure, but I’ve used my brain and figured out that Donnie Darko is in actuality a smart science-fiction film, so I don’t know why this is something you’d want to make My Immortal-esque fanfiction about.

I believe the word strange can also – not in a bad way – be used to describe some of the dialogue. Seth Rogen and Alex Greenwald’s lines are shockingly brutal and cruel, the Darkos say plenty of absurd things to one another (“How does one suck a fuck?” “You’re bitchin’ but you’re not a bitch.”) and then there’s a scene where some of the characters discuss how Smurfs reproduce. Strange, certainly, yet likable at the same ime.

Donnie Darko is a lovely picture with clever visuals, a very good soundtrack, fascinatingly bizarre characters, a beautifully confusing story, well-done cinematography and of course, that surreal and spooky atmosphere that Richard Kelly so skillfully creates. It is quite a special movie, as it helped me truly realize the beauty of surrealist film. Today, I’m a big Lynch-fan.

“What if you could go back in time, and take all those hours of pain and darkness and replace them with something better?” – Gretchen Ross.

5/5 whatever.