“Why do you wear that stupid man suit?”
Death. Time travel. Mental health. Religion. The end of the world, communicated with a wry sense of humour. Combine these elements and you have the rough outline of Donnie Darko, a 2001 American independent movie by first-time director Richard Kelly. You could say this film also boasts my favourite movie soundtrack – in that area it certainly is the standout of my top 3, as you’ll soon see.
While Jake Gyllenhaal has gone on to produce arguably more accomplished performances, Donnie Darko – in which he played the psychologically troubled title character – is still, for me, his best all-round film. It is one of the most multi-layered movies I know, though Gyllenhaal’s edgy portrayal of Donnie, a boy in his late teens who has ’emotional issues’, represents perhaps the most important of its thematic components. Few other films have tackled mental illness with such audacity and ambiguity in equal measure.
Also part of the cast was Jake’s real-life big sister Maggie Gyllenhaal, who played his sister in this film as well and whom (I don’t mind saying) I find to be one of Hollywood’s most naturally beautiful actresses. But of course that has nothing to do with my rating this film so highly. Nothing at all.