Donnie Darko is a movie I keep coming back to every now and then and I love it.
This movie from 2001 has become a very popular cult movie with its symbolism and darkness that can be confusing the first time you see the movie. I love how I discover new things with this movie every time I see it and I love the darkness in it that envelops Donnie and where he learns about time travel and ultimately makes the ultimate sacrifice.
One morning, Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds himself awakening in the middle of a secluded mountain road. We learn that Donnie regularly wanders out at night and sleeps in strange places.
One of the nights that Donnie sleepwalks Frank (James Duval), a menacing, demonic-looking rabbit with an eerie, hypnotic voice, draws Donnie out of his room to tell him that in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds, the world will end.
That morning Donnie wakes up on a nearby golf course and when he returns home he finds police and firemen there and learns that an airplane jet engine has crashed through his bedroom. No one knows where the engine has come from and no airplanes were reported as flying in the vicinity.
Donnie is regularly seeing a psychiatrist, because of his troubled history, who discovers hypnosis is the means to unlock hidden secrets. We follow Donnie through his thereapy sessions consisting of hypnotical treatment and medication.
He doesn’t get along too well with his family, his teachers and his classmates; but he does manage to find a sympathetic friend in Gretchen, the new girl in town, who agrees to date him.
Frank (the large bunny) appears more and more often in Donnies life and dreams, and manipulates Donnie into committing a series of crimes. Frank also tells Donnie about time travel while he is watching a film at the theater with Gretchen. Donnie floods the school, steals his father’s gun, and burns the home of Cunningham, where firemen uncover a “kiddie porn dungeon”.
Throughout the story Grandma Death (Roberta Sparrow) becomes a central part as we learn that she has written a book about time travels which starts interesting Donnie more and more as his “friendship” with Frank increases. Donnie gets more and more obsessed about time travel throughout the story as Frank also convinces him that he is getting closer to the worlds end.
Donnie and his older sister Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal) throw a Halloween party to celebrate the news of her admission to Harvard while their father is away in New York and their mother, Rose, and younger sister Sam, are away at a dance competition.
During the party, Gretchen comes to Donnie’s house in tears for safety because her mother has suddenly disappeared, likely because of her threatening stepfather, and it is implied she and Donnie have sex for the first time at the party. At midnight, Donnie realizes 28 days have passed and only 6 hours remain until the end of the world. Donnie visits “Grandma Death” along with Gretchen and two friends.
They are assaulted by two high school bullies and Gretchen is knocked unconscious. A car swerves to avoid “Grandma Death”, but runs over Gretchen, killing her. As the bullies run off, a man wearing a rabbit costume emerges from the car, realizing what has happened. It is Frank. Frank yells at Donnie, who shoots Frank in the eye with his father’s stolen pistol. Donnie carries Gretchen’s lifeless body home, places her in the family car, and speeds away. For once, Donnie, now smiling, seems at peace as a vortex engulfs the jet carrying his mother and sister. Just as the storm causes an engine to fall off, Donnie transports it back in time – 28 days earlier – using a wormhole.
In the revised timeline, Donnie chooses to stay in bed. He laughs and turns over as if to sleep just as the jet engine crashes through his bedroom, killing him. As his body is taken away the next morning, Gretchen passes by on her bike and is informed by a neighborhood boy about what has happened. Gretchen tells him that she did not know Donnie, and she gives a sympathetic wave to Rose.
Another thing about this movie is the soundtrack. There are a lot of great songs!
“Mad World” Written by Roland Orzabal Performed by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews
“The Killing Moon” Written by Will Sergeant, Ian McCulloch, Les Pattinson and Pete DeFreitas (as Pete De Freitas) Performed by Echo & The Bunnymen
“Head over Heels” Written by Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal Performed by Tears for Fears Courtesy of Mercury Records Limited Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
“Notorious” Written by Simon Le Bon (as Simon LeBon), Nick Rhodes and John Taylor Performed by Duran Duran Courtesy of Capitol Records Under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” Written and Performed by Joy Division
“Under the Milky Way” Written by Steve Kilbey (as Steven Kilbey) and Karin Jansson Performed by The Church
“Never Tear Us Apart” INXS (Director’s Cut Only)