Classic Review: Donnie Darko (2001)

A Bit of a head scratcher, this is a fantastically atmospheric film with a great twist at the end.  Can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before.

Certificate: 15

Director: Richard Kelly

Screenwriter: Richard Kelly

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell

Genre: Mystery, Sci-Fi

Runtime: 113 Minutes

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewed by: Pearl

Donnie Darko doesn’t get along too well with his family, his teachers, and his classmates; but he does manage to find a sympathetic friend in Gretchen, who agrees to date him. He has a compassionate psychiatrist, who discovers hypnosis is the means to unlock hidden secrets. His other companion may not be a true ally. Donnie has a friend named Frank, a large bunny which only Donnie can see. When an engine falls off a plane and destroys his bedroom, Donnie is not there. Both the event, and Donnie’s escape, seem to have been caused by supernatural events. – From IMDB

I don’t know what I expected this film to be about, but a weird alternate universe, time travel type thing was definitely not it.  I managed to get all the way to the ripe old age of thirty having never seen this film and never getting spoiled as to what it was all about.  So going into this completely blind I was confused for a good portion of the film and I am not too embarrassed to admit that I had to google the ending to make sure that I had understood it properly.  But did any of this take away from my enjoyment of the film?  No not at all.

This is wonderfully atmospheric.  There is an overall creepy feeling throughout the film, even if you don’t really know why.  And Jake Gyllenhaal does a fantastic job as Donnie, and really embodies that character so well.  He is an actor that until recently, I had not paid enough attention too.  Now that I have seen him in a multitude of roles, I can safely say that he is one of those actors that I think delivers reliably solid performances.  But here, as Donnie, he is truly terrific.  The way he changes his entire body language and facial expressions when talking to Frank/sleepwalking is just amazing.  It is that change and the creepy half smile he puts on his face that go a long way to driving that atmosphere.

OK, so the story is a little convoluted, all the best time travel stories are, but it is worth sticking with.  The ending comes put of nowhere and I totally did not see that coming.  I thought it was all going to end when Frank got out of the car in the alternate timeline, instead we get a much more poignant and shocking ending that sticks with audiences a lot more.

If by chance, like me, you haven’t seen this film before, I would highly recommend giving it a shot.  It wont be for everyone, but it’s worth sticking with.

‘Donnie Darko’ is currently streaming for free on Amazon Prime Video.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s