When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a procedure to have each other erased from their memories. But it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with.
Donnie Darko doesn't get along too well with his family, his teachers and his classmates; but he does manage to find a sympathetic friend in Gretchen, who agrees to date him. He has a compassionate psychiatrist, who discovers hypnosis is the means to unlock hidden secrets. His other companion may not be a true ally. Donnie has a friend named Frank - a large bunny which only Donnie can see. When an engine falls off a plane and destroys his bedroom, Donnie is not there. Both the event, and Donnie's escape, seem to have been caused by supernatural events. Donnie's mental illness, if such it is, may never allow him to find out for sure. Written by
The words "Cellar Door" are written on the chalkboard in Karen Pomeroy's (Drew Barrymore's) classroom. When Donnie asks about their meaning, she replies that "This famous linguist once said that of all the phrases in the English language, of all the endless combinations of words in all of history, that Cellar Door is the most beautiful." In the director's commentary, Richard Kelly mistakenly attributes the phrase to Edgar Allan Poe, but it was actually J.R.R. Tolkien, who, in his 1955 essay "English and Welsh", said that "Most English-speaking people will admit that cellar door is 'beautiful', especially if dissociated from its sense (and from its spelling). More beautiful than, say, sky, and far more beautiful than beautiful." See more »
When Donnie's science teacher begins talking about Roberta Sparrow's book, Donnie puts the Slinky around his neck. The camera cuts to Donnie taking the book and cuts directly back to a rear angle of Donnie to show the Slinky still taut around his neck, which it would not be if he had released his grip on one end of it. See more »
I think the main theme of this film was summed up somewhere in the middle, where Donnie is speaking to a not-so-helpful self-help guru and says something to the following effect:
"Yes, I am scared and I am confused. But I think you are the f**king antichrist!!!"
In the end, _Donnie Darko_ is a film about people who feel life and all the emotions within it very deeply. Donnie himself is a basically sweet-tempered (often courageous) young man who is pathologically terrified of loneliness and the thought of spiritual isolation. His quest for meaning and self-discovery drives him to the fringes of our reality, which only serves to isolate him more from the world he loves. The few who understand what Donnie is going through go largely unnoticed (such as his girlfriend Gretchen or a tragically overweight yet remarkable sensitive little girl) or unappreciated (such as Karen, the English teacher whose only sin is trying to show her students that there is no such thing as a true end.)
Of course, this movie far from polarizes its characters (indeed, polarization is the last thing this film wants to accomplish) and the majority are just a mishmash of the beautiful and the grotesque: Donnie's parents, who are at the same time loving and perpetually confused; the aforementioned self-helper Jim Cunningham, who is desperate to spread the lie that keeps him sane to everybody else; and Donnie's sister, struggling between her identity as an adult and her identity as a child. And then there's Frank. All I can say here is that nothing can prepare you for or adequately describe Frank.
Probably the best thing about this movie, though, is its incredible emotional range. It manages to inspire hope, love, dread, laughter, and tears at different points throughout the movie without making you feel least bit like there is a contradiction between those states. The scenes with Frank (especially the one that takes place in the therapist's office against the backdrop of a conversation about the end of the world) are quite frankly some of the scariest things I've ever seen in a movie, as they literally made my skin crawl.
Finally, the performances in this film are exquisite. The talent in this film is top notch and even Gyllenhall is just amazing. That said, though, this film has a dismal future. Combine the fact that the large majority of the moviegoing public is just going to find it unbearably weird with the fact that the movie begins with part of an airplane crashing into a building (this has got to be the very definition of bad timing) and it's pretty clear that this film is going to stay underground. However, if you are looking for a beautiful experience with a unique film, _Donnie Darko_ is just about as good as it gets.
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