So it took me a while to get around to watching this movie. I suppose the promo image for Donnie Darko was a bit of a turn off. Someone in a hoodie looking ominous with fire in the background. I imagined it was like Firestarter (which I haven’t seen… but you get the idea).
All I knew about Donnie was that it had something to do with alleged psychic abilities and time travel, and that it was a bit dark. Even the opening scenes are a bit dark (exposure-wise). This made me think I’d be suffering through the grainy bummer of old movie prints that aren’t remastered. But I persevered and after a few minutes was pleasantly surprised. In fact, Donnie kept growing on me, right up to the grand, freaked out finale.
Set in 1988 but filmed in 2001, this is an interesting time loop in itself. The past looking at the past. On the whole the retro fit is done well. Rounded CRT TVs. VHS tapes. That era. The only anachronism I might have detected is the Panasonic Ball Radio. I owned one of those, and that was the 1970s, not the late 80s. Oh well. I guess you could say the character who owns the radio gets it from her parents.
This film touches on several key issues without going overboard on any of them. Time travel, premonition, the idea of mental illness, bullying, racism, child pornography, the hypocrisy of some self-help gurus. All these provocative themes are wrapped up into a tight ball that steadily unravels as the film progresses.
The acting is pretty much fabulous throughout. I didn’t see any weak performances and lots of strong ones.
Rather than break it down (you can get that at more conventional sites), I suggest watching this film with as few preconceptions as possible. Wikipedia helps make sense of it. But I wouldn’t read that until after seeing this skirmish into darkness, light and emerging new ideas about space, time and alternate universes.
Sometimes mystery is good, and spelling it all out beforehand can detract from the magic.