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Film Review: Donnie Darko (“What does it all mean?”)

"Some people are just born with tragedy in their blood."

Donnie Darko (2001), directed by Richard Kelly, could be called tragic – especially considering that the characters we’re dealing with are overdramatic and troubled high-school students. However, no one would say this is your typical American high school movie.

The protagonist Donnie Darko manages to be mysteriously endearing with his eccentric mind and instinct to rebel against the norms, despite battling quite a few mental health problems. This endearment may have something to do with a young Jake Gyllenhaal playing the part. Whilst falling into the dark place inside his mind he begins to unwrap the questions of the earth around him, researching and meddling with the concept of time travel. During his philosophical adventure he is accompanied by two significant people – a fellow student named Gretchen and his friend Frank (who’s also an imaginary bunny rabbit).

To his family, teachers, and therapist, Donnie is a diagnosed schizophrenic with a medication receipt. He is disturbed, deranged, and needs to be guided onto a better path. Someone who wishes to steer him the most is Jim Cunningham, a man who visits the school and earns a living off his self-help videos that are designed to help people escape being 'products of fear'.

Donnie Darko makes crazy look interesting. A warped mind appears to be a liberty that enters one into the unknown and achieves enlightenment. It shows us the limitations of a behaved mind – doing what one is supposed to do by not stepping out of the lines. Ordinary people are trapped and live a life of ignorance without knowing so, whereas the rest escape the comfort zone where endless possibilities occur. Donnie not only asks questions that appear to have no answers, but attempts to find the answers themselves with a bold curiosity. Whether that is genius or dangerous is up for the audience to decide.

Many will watch the film for the first time and be confused as to what it all meant. “What does it all mean?” is exactly the question that the film asks throughout its course, so if you find yourself with this reaction you probably understood more about the film than you thought.

If you have a mind that is almost as open and as abstract as Donnie’s, watching it more than once is advised. Lovers of philosophy will find themselves attracted to its ambiguity.

All you need to do is tell yourself to wake up.

Written by Courtney Ann

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