Brett Schutt’s review published on Letterboxd:
I've been wanting to rewatch this for years. I watched this for the first time about 3 (or maybe even 4) years ago. It was one of my first r rated movies and yeah- what a dark one to start with, right?
I finished it this morning because I got super tired last night running on 5 hours of sleep, but, I'm bummed because this is one of those watch at midnight and then ponder the human condition type of films, but, ehh I'm over it.
Donnie Darko is probably the most astounding low budget pictures I've ever seen. This is proof all you need to make an excellent film is a talented filmmaker, layered script and amazing actors.
This still might be my favorite Jake Gylenhall performance (even though he killed it in Nightcrawler as well). Donnie Darko is an iconic film character now. He's the most troubled of teens, kinda like an aspiring Travis Blicke from Taxi Driver. He's a nihilistic kid trying to find some sense of purpose, and ends up finding it in the most confusing and unconventional way you could imagine.
The end of this movie is a trip, and I still don't have it all figured out to be honest, even after several analysis, I don't think it quite explains everything the film is going for. It's really the ending that has made this film a staple in cult classic cinema along the lines of Fight Club and Blade Runner.
The first 2/3rds of this film are actually pretty simple to digest and an interesting and thought provoking tale of a troubled teens struggle through mental illness. That part of the movie is what is able to ground the movie and make you actually care to look into what the ending means.
Even the relationship built between Donnie and his girlfriend is really well done and their chemistry is kinda electric, which brings the film to have an amazing sense of emotional resonance.
The film is very dry and eerie. My favorite scene is the iconic cinema sequence where Donnie sees Evil Dead with his girlfriend and-- things happen. If you've seen the film, you know what I'm talking about. That's one of the most moody and intense sequences of film I've ever seen in my life.
As an aspiring filmmaker, Donnie Darko is one of those films that makes me wanna try to make something this complex that somehow works this well. It's just an overall fantastic picture.
On a side note: this has one of the best soundtracks in any movie ever. I'm a really big fan of British New Wave music and man oh man they make fantastic selections in this.
I guess my only flaw is the bully characters. One of them is played by a young Seth Rogen so it figures. They just seem like stock bully characters that aren't as cleverly built up like the rest of the film are.
Overall this is an absolute must watch for any aspiring filmmaker, and now a staple in the cult classic canon for a reason. A film to be discussed for generations to come.