#198: Donnie Darko (2001)

When and how did I watch this?

October 30th, 2015, on a friend’s Plex account.

Had I seen this film already?


What did I know about the movie before watching it?

We did a lot of homework on this film because I was told it was “creepy” and “unsettling”.  I was hopeful for this one because it explored some themes I really dig in film (to be explained furthermore).  It has sort of an ensemble cast — some of which hadn’t even landed a major role (Seth Rogen, Ashley Tisdale). Some of the images I saw gave me goosebumps, and I was hoping I wouldn’t dive into anything resembling The Shining.

What do I know about it now?


As expected, this is exactly what I look for in a movie.  While some of the acting is poor, the story is told well enough.  We’re soon immersed in the mind of this character, once again traveling into surreal territory at times, seeing the protagonist operate and experience real consequences for his actions.  All along, he firmly believes that he is unable to choose his future, succumbing to the overwhelming will of his imaginary friend(?) and witnessing “timelines” of his family and friends moving about into the future.  It is indeed dark and disturbing, and sometimes confusing.

On a spiritual plane, this film appears to aptly explain how self-determination and pre-destination can work in harmony.  It is a conundrum that haunts Christians and otherwise alike, but Donnie Darko manages to make some headway to unscramble it.

What are some themes in the film?

Destiny, time travel, schizophrenia, God, mercurialism/stability

Did this affect me personally?

I had a significantly bizarre dream that night.  It was unrelated to the film, but it appeared to unlock another level of subconscious thought.

Why is this ranked #198?

It’s one of those existential cult classic type, not unlike 12 monkeys, that rattles you a bit and makes you question reality and the possibility of parallel universes.  It’s fun and scary and it’s set in suburbia. Upon further introspection, it shouldn’t be ranked this high, but it’s here because most voters are probably 18-30 range and really like this one.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She enjoyed it, but wasn’t as wrapped up in it as I was.

Would I watch it again?

I think I’d watch it to check for clarity. I felt like I gained a full understanding of what the director was attempting to convey, but I could be mistaken.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

It wouldn’t appeal to a mainstream crowd, but it might answer some interesting questions for you.  The profanity can be quite much, along with the perilous adolescent behavior.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Maybe.  I thought it belonged on this list as its conclusion last night, but as I’ve pondered it, the film feels like it can’t stand on both of its legs.  It works conceptually and invokes some abstract thought, and the cinematography was at worst haunting if not stunning at moments.  But it was sometimes chaotic, sometimes acted poorly, and in the end sort of resembled a young adult sci-fi novel.

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