Film Review #3 Donnie Darko (2001)
Updated: Jan 16
By Sumana Syed
As this cult classic approaches its 20th anniversary, I revisited Donnie Darko, a story about a teenage boy and good old-fashioned teenage angst (that still holds up today), as well as his mysterious new friend, a six-foot demented bunny named Frank.
To summarize, the film centers around Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal), described to be a “troubled teenage boy”, who sleepwalks outside one day and sees Frank, tells him that the world is going to end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. The next day, he returns home and sees that a jet engine crashed into his house, more specifically his room, further implicating that he’s either just seeing things or the world is really ending.
One of my favorite parts about how the film plays out is the subtle-yet-not subtle foreshadowing throughout. The best example would be how Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze) asks the students who asked him a question to come on stage next to him, and then, later on, we see that he gets arrested for child pornography. Also, as seen in the picture above, Donnie, Gretchen, and Frank are all in a theater watching “The Evil Dead,” and they’re the only three characters in the film who experience death. Although it would take a few viewings to notice all of these easter eggs, it adds another layer of complexity to the plot and adds to the abstractness of the film in general.
As I mentioned before, this film still holds up today in the sense that many teens can relate to Donnie’s character. He may appear to be troubled, but some of his dialogue holds some truth, such as when a teacher teaches his class about “fear versus love.” Using Cunningham’s “Cunning Visions” videos, the teacher asks the students to read a character dilemma and then place an X on the line ranging from whether the character is facing fear or love, and in response to this, Donnie explains to his teacher that moral dilemmas can’t be lumped into just two categories without considering other emotions.
Donnie Darko may not have been the highest-grossing movie at the time of its release, but it has gained a cult following and has garnered high praise for its narrative over the last two decades. In years to come, many filmmakers and film enthusiasts will remember this sci-fi cult classic.