Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell, and Holmes Osborne
Richard Kelly’s directorial debut follows the story of Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal), a troubled teenager who narrowly avoids death due to a tragic accident. He is saved from this accident when he begins to see visions of a giant bunny named Frank that leads him out of the house, and subsequently starts to entice Donnie to commit various crimes and vandalism in his small suburb of Middlesex. Frank tells Donnie he is from the future and that the world is going to end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. Donnie becomes more and more obsessed with Frank and time travel as he begins to see that the circumstances surrounding the crimes he is committing and the things happening are not coincidence, but fate. The story is an unraveling of Donnie’s life and the lives of others as he muses on life, fate, and the pointless pursuit of self-actualization and wealth epitomized by some of the residents of Middlesex.
This cult classic will tragically never reach the status it should, having come out during 9/11, and featuring a prominent airplane crash as part of the plot line. However, this movie is one of my favorites and has a deep pathos and human element that is one part commentary on fate and predestination, one part dark comedy, and one part commentary on suburban, middle-class lifestyle. Being a fan of dark comedy, predestination, and I grew up suburban and middle class, this movie is naturally a favorite.
I have turned over this movie in my head so many times and am amazed by the multi-faceted richness and depth of the story. Donnie’s musings and conversations about fate and time-travel touch the nerve of your human experience and what is created deep within us to seek out that sense that our lives are not all ours to decide or to determine. This is juxtaposed against the self-help guru Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze), who categorizes all life decisions into the category of fear or love and that we can take control of our life by overcoming fear. I could get into this commentary as being an accurate depiction of a lot of the self-help gurus out there today and how that is juxtaposed by the belief in a God who controls our fate, but I won’t for the sake of brevity. I will leave that to you to discuss, and probably for a longer post some other day. Needless to say, this movie is spectacular and deserves the kudos and cult following it has received.
“I have reached the end of your book and there are so many things that I need to ask you. Sometimes I’m afraid of what you might tell me. Sometimes I’m afraid that you’ll tell me that this is not a work of fiction. I can only hope that the answers will come to me in my sleep. I hope that when the world comes to an end, I can breathe a sigh of relief, because there will be so much to look forward to.” -Donnie’s Letter to Roberta Sparrow