Donnie Darko is a disturbed adolescent from a semi-functional, upper-middle class family gifted with a sharp intellect and vivid imagination but he's also a bit weird. Donnie's off his medication, and when his bedroom is obliterated by a falling airliner engine, he becomes increasingly delusional and convinced the world will end in 28 days. Aided by an imaginary friend, he embarks on an increasingly crazed series of actions, which horrify his teachers, scare his parents and amaze his friends.
Donnie Darko is a strange but intriguing film that debuted at Sundance. It's a cry of anguish from a disaffected generation. Set in October 1988, Donnie Darko – played by Jake Gyllenhaal – is an intelligent but troubled teenager. He's on medication and he's seeing a psychiatrist played by Katharine Ross. One night just before a jet engine falls out of the sky crashing into his bedroom, he's lured out of the house by Frank, a bizarre rabbit-like imaginary friend. Frank tells him the end of the world will happen in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. Before the cataclysm Donnie, under Frank's instructions, confronts the hypocrisy and increasing conservatism of his world by becoming a self-styled avenger, vandalising his school and setting fire to the house of a motivational guru played by Patrick Swayze. And he finds himself falling in love with newcomer in town, Gretchen (Jena Malone).
Donnie Darko is the first film from writer/director Richard Kelly. It's a daring and ambitious film that doesn't quite succeed, but because it is so original, so non-conformist in its approach and in its characters, it has a fascination. There's no doubting the barbs that the film shoots at small town racism, sexism and political and social repression. Kelly's assembled an interesting cast including Drew Barrymore as a provocative teacher – Barrymore was the executive producer of the film – Mary McDonnell and Holmes Osborne as Donnie's parents, and Jake's sister Maggie Gyllenhaal as his sister in the film. I must admit that while I enjoyed Donnie Darko, I was ultimately a bit perplexed by it.
Watch 'Donnie Darko'
Wednesday 9 June, 8:30pm on SBS World Movies (streaming after at SBS On Demand)
M, AD, CC
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Cult
Director: Richard Kelly
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze