Donnie Darko

Director: Richard Kelly
Year: 2001
Country: USA
Running time: 122 mins

Production co: Flower Films
Producers: Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Adam Fields
Screenplay: Richard Kelly
Photography: Steven Poster
Editors: Sam Bauer, Eric Strand
Production designer: Alexander Hammond
Costume designer: April Ferry
Sound: Coleman Metts, Michael Payne
Music: Michael Andrews

Donnie Darko: Jake Gyllenhaal
Gretchen Ross: Jena Malone
Karen Pomeroy: Drew Barrymore
Rose Darko: Mary McDonnell
Eddie Darko: Holmes Osborne
Dr Lillian Thurman: Katharine Ross
Jim Cunningham: Patrick Swayze
Dr Monnitoff: Noah Wyle
Elizabeth Darko: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Frank: James Duval
Kittie Farmer: Beth Grant

Festivals: Sundance, London 2001; Rotterdam 2002
Part comic book, part case study, Donnie Darko is the most venturesome American independent of the past year. A wondrous, moody piece of work that employs X-Files magic realism to galvanise a tale of late 80s suburban teen angst. [Director, Richard] Kelly fiddles with normality from the opening scene, wherein the sitcom Darko family gathers to partake of a delivered pizza and the revelation that middle child Donnie is off his medication and receiving messages from outer space. That night, Donnie is summoned from his bedroom and thus avoids the plane engine that inexplicably crashes through the ceiling. Increasingly delusional, he is convinced that the world will end in 28 days. With Drew Barrymore as Donnie’s English teacher, Katharine Ross as his therapist, and Patrick Swayze as a demonic motivational speaker, the casting is both showy and inspired. But the emotional weight rests on the hunched shoulders of Jake Gyllenhaal who, refusing to make direct contact with the camera, convincingly portrays Donnie’s eccentric genius. Although the big influence seems the apocalyptic Magnolia, the film is steeped in 1980s pop culture. Donnie Darko has received a mixed response. No less than its hero, the movie has its awkward moments. But Kelly has a sure sense of his own narrative, skillfully guiding it through the climactic carnival of souls. — J. Hoberman, Critics Choice, Rotterdam Film Festival 2002

Many of the elements here are those of a mid-80s John Hughes movie, or for that matter of the Back to the Future films, an influence that Kelly specifically acknowledges… Kelly takes these elements of pop storytelling and stretches them into something transcendent, personal and deeply strange. When Donnie Darko echoes or quotes scenes from Nightmare on Elm Street or The Abyss, I don’t think it’s a film-school homage but rather a recognition that those images have overflowed their containers and now inhabit the general Jungian subcellar. Kelly’s blend of satire, period piece and tragic love story is itself a kind of cultural archetype that extends from American Beauty and The Virgin Suicides back to Peggy Sue Got Married and well beyond. But few filmmakers of any era have blended the sensibilities of pop and art film so effortlessly, or combined them with such a haunting tale of loss and redemption… Kelly is just 26, but while Donnie Darko is a young man’s film in its brashness and daring (and its slightly overthickened satire), it’s not a movie by a kid. — Andrew O’Hehir,, 30/10/01