Film, Go To

Go To: Donnie Darko (2001) dir. Richard Kelly


28 days. 6 hours. 42 minutes. 12 seconds. According to a large grey, skeletal-faced looking rabbit named Frank, this is when the world will end in Richard Kelly’s 2001 film, Donnie Darko.

In my junior high and high school days, Donnie Darko was an absolute favorite of mine. I spent more time than I’d like to admit trying to make sense of the time travel angle—more on that later—and debate away plot holes. It’s been some time since then, and I’m pleased to say that for this viewing I didn’t get too wrapped up on the parts of the movie that I don’t think are truly as integral.

Donnie Darko tells the story of the titular character (Jake Gyllenhaal), a teenage boy finding his way through high school, relationships, and mental illness. They allude to a history of some impulsive, destructive behaviors—though to his credit, it doesn’t sound like anyone was ever harmed in these events. He’s a bit of the troubled, misunderstood trope, a character who is deeply emotionally disturbed, but gosh he seems like a good guy at heart—not to mention someone hell bent on calling out the b.s. which, while a bit jarring, is admirable at its core.

Donnie, while sleepwalking one night (he does that a lot), comes across Frank, the giant rabbit, very much not a la Jimmy Stewart’s “Harvey.” Frank is deeply menacing in appearance—don’t think I didn’t fear waking up to him at the foot of my bed as a kid…and…more recently…his foreboding message doesn’t exactly give you the warm fuzzies either.

Well wouldn’t you know it, thanks to Donnie’s nighttime routine, he narrowly avoids a jet engine from an unknown plane falling through the roof, and into his bedroom. Talk about a lucky break. Perhaps I should be a little less critical of Frank…

This almost-brush with death leads Donnie on a quest to better understand time travel. Here’s where I got a little too caught up in the past. While it’s very interesting to try and figure out, I don’t think it’s really at the heart of this film.

Donnie Darko is a unique movie, filled with mostly endearing characters, from Donnie’s girlfriend, Gretchen (Jena Malone), English teacher (Drew Barrymore), and the titular character himself, to name a few. Even the “fear-resistant” teacher, Kitty (Beth Grant), both infuriates and cracks me up simultaneously.

In my mind, this film is a piece of art. The score fits perfectly throughout, especially ominous, and eerie as needed. The occasional quick-motion pacing is a nice nod to the time travel bit, without being too on the nose.

Donnie’s heart is what I find so compelling. Watching Donnie navigate the world and the people around him is fascinating. Donnie’s thought process and ultimate decision making is heartbreaking.

After another viewing, I would say this movie has withstood the test of time and is one I will likely revisit more often.

Donnie Darko
dir. Richard Kelly
113 min.

Special Halloween screening of the original theatrical cut!
Screens Tuesday, 10/31, 5:30pm & 10:00pm @ Brattle Theatre

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