Donnie Darko (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner24/10/2002

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 112 mins

Dark, interesting and downright weird film that plays like a teen movie filtered through the work of David Lynch – a cult movie in the making, thanks to rising stars Gyllenhaal and writer/director Richard Kelly.

If you’ve been wondering about all the various rabbit-head stickers, posters and strange notes (“26 days, 12 hours, 36 minutes, 8 seconds – that is when the world will end”) that have been popping up all over London, then wonder no longer. They’ve been part of the impressive teaser/publicity campaign for Donnie Darko, and the film, directed by ‘hot new talent’ writer/director Richard Kelly more than lives up to the expectation. Even if you won’t necessarily understand it.

Giant Imaginary Rabbit Predicts Apocalypse

Rising star Jake Gyllenhaal (see also Lovely & Amazing and the upcoming The Good Girl) plays Donnie Darko, a suburban teenager who’s plagued by hallucinations of a scary-looking giant rabbit named Frank, who casually informs him that the world will end in 26 days.

Frank’s not entirely malevolent, however, because he manages to lure Donnie out of the house on the same night that a jet engine crashes into his bedroom. So Donnie, understandably, is confused. It also transpires that Donnie is possibly schizophrenic, although all he’ll reveal under his shrink’s hypno-therapy is his lust for Christina Applegate…

Guru With A Dark Secret

There’s an awful lot going on in Donnie Darko, and it’s definitely the sort of film that will require several viewings. It’s packed with great characters (Drew Barrymore’s English teacher, Patrick Swayze as New Age guru-type with a dark secret) and contains lots of eminently quotable lines (“Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!”). It also has a terrific soundtrack and sequences that suggest a nod towards the work of P. T. Anderson (Magnolia, Boogie Nights).

The acting is excellent. Jake Gyllenhaal is superb as the mysterious, oddly laid-back teen and Jena Malone (from Life As A House) impresses as his girlfriend. There’s great support too, particularly from Mary McDonnell as Donnie’s mother, Jake’s real-life sister Maggie Gyllenhaal (soon to be a lot more famous than she is) as his older sister and Daveigh Chase (the voice of Lilo in Lilo & Stitch) as his younger sister.

Potential Cult Classic

There are several memorable scenes in the film and Kelly creates a subtly menacing, surreal atmosphere throughout, as well as utilising an Abyss-like special effect that seems odd at first, but becomes significant later on.

In short, Donnie Darko has ‘Future Cult Movie’ written all over it. You may not understand it straight away (but, hey, that’s what DVDs are for), but it’ll make you think more than any film this year and coming up with different theories to ‘explain’ it – much like with Mulholland Drive - is definitely part of the fun. Here’s hoping Richard Kelly’s next movie will be as interesting as this one. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Donnie Darko (15)
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Content updated: 11/12/2017 02:16

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