Some have said that life is nothing but a series of questions. Who am I? What am I? What will I be? It’s the last one that’s a bit tricky, for the future is always changing, growing, and possibilities are infinite. Or are they?
Donnie Darko? What kind of name is that? Sounds like some superhero. Donnie Darko isn’t a superhero; he’s just a teenage boy with lots of problems. But then again… where exactly does his reality begin and end? He could be insane, or he could be brilliant. Perhaps he’s just like you and me… or maybe he’s the most powerful creature on earth. This is the world of Donnie Darko, a thrilling, exciting, and incredible film from first time director, Richard Kelly.
Questions, I love films about questions. Donnie Darko is replete with them, in a mind-bending film about the ordinary that just might be the extraordinary. Donnie Darko is a tortured soul whose life is ordinary. All he wants is sanity, but his mind is infested with unbelievable hallucinations, compulsions driven by a mysterious creature named “Frank”. Jake Gyllenhaal as Darko is simply brilliant. Transitioning from normal, albeit abnormally intelligent teen, to potentially unstable and dangerous man child as Donnie’s tortured journey drives the film, Gyllenhaal forces us to connect with his character in a way no one else could have, through the simplest of means. Kelly keeps us on our toes continually, with beautiful and at times deceptively haunting cinematography, making the mundane ominous, and the truly ominous insane. Tension is constant in this film, and Kelly doesn’t stop building it for a moment, right up until the last second when the film reaches its explosion of a resolution.
Perhaps Kelly is playing with us, toying with us in the same way that Donnie’s invisible friend toys with him. Perhaps he’s just testing us, seeing how far he can push his audience before we break, before we boil over like an angry hive of bees desperate for resolution, hungering for truth. It’s perfect. You can’t stop watching this film. You can’t live without seeing it. Rarely does any film so successfully manage to screw with your head, suck in your emotions, pull out your insides and spit you back out with the power of Donnie Darko.
I left the theater feeling beaten. Drained. Sucked dry. As if Donnie Darko had somehow managed to reach down inside me and pull every bit of energy from my body. That’s not just good movie making, that's shockingly great filmmaking. Donnie Darko is the best film of the year. Whether or not anyone sees it, regardless of what those rotting old suits at Oscar thinks, this one is a winner.