Donnie Darko is a gothic-toned satire, with a dash of teen-romance and a science fiction twist.It contains terrifically judged performances from Jake Gyllenhaal as the eponymous disturbed anti-hero and Mary McDonnell as his mother. Notable extended cameos from Drew Barrymore and Patrick Swayze cleverly ground the story in 1988. There’s also an exacting use of (mostly British) pop music from the period, not as nostalgic aural wallpaper, but to reflect mood and action. And tips of the hat galore to 1980s films like E.T.
Donnie Darko is the eye-catching debut of Richard Kelly, whose deft screenplay also takes a swipe at American school life and adult hypocrisy. The film is full of memorable and strange images, like the creepy man-rabbit Frank. Steven Poster’s photography is rich and beautiful, and perfectly complements Kelly’s dark vision.It’s the sort of challenging film you need to see twice, mainly to unravel the over-complicated plot and confusing time-travelling paradox denouement. That said, Donnie Darko is even more rewarding on a second viewing and has the sure makings of a cult.