Cult Classic Donnie Darko Is Worth a Watch


The Torch will be running a regularly occurring recommendation for a film from years gone by that can be found on one of the several film streaming services. Our first installment is on the 2001 cult Classic Donnie Darko.

Art manifests itself in many mediums. One such medium is that of film. Like art, movies can have multiple interpretations and be enjoyed from many different perspectives. A prime example of this is the 2001 cult classic, Donnie Darko.

A cult classic is a film underappreciated by mainstream viewers at its release, only to be unearthed and viewed with a different perspective years later. Like many misunderstood classics, Donnie Darko has an ambiguous ending. This film will leave the viewer wanting more, and force the viewer to think about what they have just viewed.  The film’s director, Richard Kelly, has few classics under his belt, making Donnie Darko his magnum opus.

The films posted plot is that of a troubled high school student who is in therapy, prone to sleepwalking, and in possession of an imaginary friend, a six-foot rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world is going to end in 28 days 06 hours 42 minutes and 12 seconds. The film features a deep plot a deep plot laced with humor that requires comprehensive thinking and spectacular acting from Jake Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swazye, and Drew Barrymore.

The film has left its mark on viewers, such as Olympic Heights junior Jordyn Lubinsky who states, “What really stuck out to me is that they actually made a movie about schizophrenia, and that they actually portrayed it well, because there are not many movies that portray mental illness well, never mind schizophrenia.”

The film is not perfect, with tonal inconsistencies and a plot requiring multiple viewings. However, many critiques of the film come off as pretentious and pompous looking to find problems with the film that are simply not there. One such example is A. O. Scott’s review in the New York Times who writes, “It’s this compulsion to solder melancholy to weightlessness that constantly trips up the movie; Mr. Kelly doesn’t have the assurance to pull off such a difficult feat.” This critique of the film is stating, in simpler terms, the film is attempting to be sad throughout.

The movie truly takes place in a parallel universe where Donnie survives a jet’s engine crashing onto his house. Donnie is guided by his older sister’s dead boyfriend in an attempt to survive in the pre-end of the world. The world, in a sense, is the universe where Donnie survives the jet engine.

The end of the movie depicts Donnie’s death, where his girlfriend states she never knew him. The audience knows of their blossoming relationship in this example of dramatic irony. Another interesting fact is Donnie’s schizophrenia is genetic to his family as his father states, “I used to be crazy.”

The film is special in the fact that it, like many art house films, has multiple interpretations. However, Donnie Darko continues to be worshiped for its entertainment value without any deeper thought into the film’s underlying intent. With great humor, spectacular acting, and a beautiful story, Donnie Darko is well worth the watch on Netflix.