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  • Writer's pictureMasoud Kazemi

28 Days, 6 Hours, 42 Minutes, 12 Seconds

Donnie Darko, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, is an absolute must-watch for cult classic film lovers.


Since its release in 2001, Donnie Darko has become a well-known cult classic, developing a strong fanbase. Directed by Richard Kelly, the movie revolves around a troubled teenage boy named Donnie Darko, who’s told by a mysterious figure that the world will end soon. The film is so popular amongst its audience because it manages to balance a complex storyline alongside iconic scenes and relatable themes.

Indie-Style Unique Plot

Indie films generally don't have massive stars, famous directors, or intense action sequences. Instead, they must rely on a unique story, memorable acting, or strong character development. Donnie Darko has a bit of these, but its storyline is undoubtedly what makes the entire film so great. The plot revolves around Donnie, a troubled schizophrenic teenager on medications, who is warned by an ominous character that the world will end soon. The rest of the film follows Donnie's interactions with this mysterious figure and how it affects his personal and social life as well as the lives of others. As the film progresses, the story becomes more mysterious and confusing than the opposite. However, this contradiction to normal film progression aids in reeling the audience closer and closer to the edge of their seats till the mind-bending climax.

Breakthrough Acting

Alongside a fantastic storyline, this film's acting is also exceptional. The main character, Donnie, is played by none other than Jake Gyllenhaal. His phenomenal performance is what really put him on the map and gave him his acting breakthrough. The emotional range that he displays, from sorrow to anger to pure mania, is even more unbelievable, considering that he was only 19 in the film. Jake's older sister, Maggie Gyllenhaal, plays his older sister in the movie and does a pretty good job. Most of the other characters also perform well, but the majority of acting comes from a single character, Donnie Darko. Because of this, the other characters in the film do not get much character development, as the entire movie revolves heavily around Donnie.

Few Cons

While character development is one of the main cons, how the film is directed removes the need for much development. The audience almost doesn’t notice the lack of development throughout the movie since the director keeps their minds occupied trying to comprehend the complexity of the genius plot. The other main thing that can’t be brushed aside is the technical aspect of the movie. Indie films generally have a lower production quality than mainstream films, and the same can be said for this one. The lighting and cinematography are mediocre, but it isn’t because Richard Kelly doesn’t know how to shoot a scene but because his vision is not developed to its full potential.

Closing Critiques

Donnie Darko is one of the most layered, mysterious cult classics ever. A masterful mix of complexity and exceptional acting from Jake Gyllenhaal brings this film to a different level. While the movie's cinematography and other technical aspects are ok, they could have been significantly improved. However, considering that the film was made with a budget under 5 million dollars, it's a must-watch masterpiece.

Raving Rating: 8.3

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