Richard Kelley's Donnie Darko: Film Review

Published: 2021-09-16 15:35:08
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Category: Movies

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Living with chronic schizophrenia cripples one’s ability to socialize and be considered “normal” in society. However, perhaps the disorder that once tormented the psyche had unexpectedly saved a life. What happens then? Who would possibly believe it? These are the questions posed by Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko, a film from 2001 starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze and James Duval. Donnie, played by Gyllenhaal, suffers from schizophrenia that manifests itself in the form of a giant grotesque rabbit named Frank (James Duval), who follows Donnie and communicates with him. Of course, because Frank is a figment of imagination, no one else in his little Virginia community sees him. To deal with this problem, Donnie’s parents put him under heavy medication, hoping to numb his encounters. The images go away and months pass without Donnie seeing or hearing anything. That is, until, Frank re-appears one night telling Donnie to wake up and follow him outside. Donnie obeys the nightmarish rabbit and is led outside, mere seconds before a jet engine crashes through his bedroom, decimating a portion of his house. Donnie, petrified, asked Frank how he knew that it was coming. Frank only responds with a cryptic warning: “28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, 12 seconds. This is when the world will end.” In that window of time, Frank shows Donnie what demons he needs to slay before the world collapses in on itself, like standing up to a motivational speaker with a dark past, played by Patrick Swayze. Yet, as time goes on, Donnie develops the theory that his actions aren’t preventing the end of the world, but accelerating its arrival. As more signs of the impending apocalypse draw near, Donnie is torn between running errands for Frank and leaving the world behind to rot in peace.
Although, to the untrained moviegoer, the film is presented in a linear function, a viewer with a richer view of linearity and a keen eye can spot the times that the time line is thrown off. It appears as though there are loops in time, expressed in various instances that repeat throughout the film. Whenever Donnie takes his crush to the theater, the movie they see is always “The Evil Dead”, and Frank always accompanies them. Often times, Frank is hurt when he scares Donnie. However, the following day, Frank’s wounds seem to disappear. This indicates a shift in the timeline. The storm still approaches, signifying that the End is still charging at full force no matter how many loops Donnie goes through. This “looping timeline” purposely confuses the audience, leaving them as anxious as Donnie was to solve the perplexing time-space enigma. This way, the viewers sort of embody Donnie in his plight and take sides as to whether Frank is destructive in his advice or helpful. However, something that the viewers forget every time is that Frank is not real in the first place! He is a figment of Donnie’s imagination, and, as such, this entire movie from the second Frank says, “Wake up,” could easily be justified as a horrible hallucination. The viewers are welcome to discuss the possibilities, and even today, people are jumping on forums to determine the linearity of this film, an illusion so amiably created by Richard Kelly. Donnie Darko is a fantastic, albeit frightening, journey into the psyche of an average boy with extraordinary power and extraordinary darkness.

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