Arnon🪐’s review published on Letterboxd:
Donnie Darko is a certified cult classic. It’s one of those films as a child, that even if you had a gun to my head, Im still not watching a film involving an elementary dance group called sparkle motion and a time traveling rabbit. It just never gets old. What makes the final product even more satisfying is realizing the fruit that is a debut director hungry to be different mixed with a talented young actor wanting to get his name out there, combining to make something spectacular.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that Donnie Darko is as close to being a realistic superhero film as any movie can be. Some people, like Donnie and Sparrow, have the ability to see or feel individuals traversing along their path of life. Majority of people experience time linearly but some can perceive it on a higher level. I’ll elaborate on how I interpreted the film
Donnie's power was first awakened by this rupture in time that's “supposedly”going to happen in a few days or in that "space", and the information greatly bewilders him. He perceives people travelling along their timeline but he can't interpret the said information. Basically I see it as, the "end of the world" is for him and it’s when Gretchen dies, playing a red herring that it’s the literal end of the world. That’s his mind's interpretation of it. The reason Frank "ferries" him to that event through the film is Frank's intimate involvement with that specific event at that specific point in time. He's a time echo, one might say. It’s weird because then one could argue that the film itself both happens, and doesn't.
The film takes place both in Donnie's bed and as an extension of his "sight." He views along his lifeline to the world's end, which is the death of Gretchen not only because he loves her but because he will make the choice to save her by dying. He sees the end of his own timeline. As a "superhero," he uses his powers to save one life. He removes himself from Gretchen's life retroactively so that her line continues. He's laughing so menacingly in that one scene because it all seems so clear and inevitable and all the information makes sense to him at that moment.
He both lives and doesn't live the events of the film by perceiving them on a higher plane than a normal human is impossible to experience. Meanwhile, we struggle to locate him on his own lifeline, but only he can see it. We're fed fragments of experiences that are actually just mere perception. And then it and he himself ends. What we see at the end of the film is a new timeline created by Donnie's single motivated action, which was to stay in bed while saving a life who would’ve never met him, which they perceive linearly as "time" but which Donnie could see clearly. The mom shows the normal version of Donnie's power: the sneaking feeling that someone and something is important to us.
That’s just how I interpreted the story and the profoundness I was able to dissect was quite fascinating. The movie definitely succeeds across different departments like the score, the editing, the performances, the screenplay, the cinematography, and so much more. It’s a great film and it’s one of the very first ones to get me into film from the get go. I gotta say, I owe this film a lot