Dan Abel’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is my 500th review and I want to thank everyone who takes the two or three minutes out of their day to read what I write, even is it's just once. I love doing it and you are very much appreciated.
"28 days, 6 hours., 42 mins, 12 seconds. That is when the world will end."
Donnie Darko is sleepwalking when he meets someone in a disturbing rabbit costume named Frank. Frank tells Donnie that the world will end with a time limit and then he wakes up in the morning on a golf course, unsure of what happened the night before. When he gets home he learns that a jet engine landed on his bed where he should have been sleeping. No one knows where it came from and the FAA makes the family sign a gag order until they can figure it out. In the next 28 days Donnie will learned his place not only in the universe but in existence. An existence in which a mostly normal boy may be the key to preventing the end.
I had trouble writing that brief summary but I think my experience based writing may paint a better picture. As a teen I had a very small rotation of movies that my roommate and I would keep on repeat while we slept. This was one of them and I must have fallen asleep and woken up to random scenes dozens if not hundreds of times and still didn't totally understand the plot until years later as an adult with some research under my belt. This is a plot that doesn't hold your hand and can be incredibly complicated on a first viewing but with proper context it becomes easier to decipher this sophisticated tale about time travel, multiple universes, and the meaning of one particular man's existence. If there is one word to sum up Donnie Darko it's "original".....or "complicated". Why not both?
The Gyllenhaal siblings Jake and Maggie give tremendous performances in their young careers with support acting by legends Drew Barrymore and Patrick Swayze. Seth Rogan makes his first theatrical debut as a bully and this is the first time I noticed it was him. So fucking cool. The soundtrack is incredible and ranks up there with my top favorites in cinema history. That late 80s new wave / goth slate is perfection. The plot is pure brilliance that is easily misunderstood or scoffed at by a simple mind with a short attention span but tends to be revered by those who would classify themselves as deep thinkers. There are so many minor subplots and easily missed details that it can be overwhelming. For repeat viewers there is a metric fuckton of foreshadowing and deeper understanding of the plot that may not answer every question but will give you a greater appreciation of the masterpiece this is.
Once in a while a film crosses your path and it captivates you. If you're the target audience this film will cause you to pause, examine, think, and research. I am a member of that audience. There are a lot of questions left unanswered even after seeing it many times in the past 19 years, but after a bunch of YouTube videos I think I have most of it buttoned up.
I didn't know there was a director's cut until after I finished this latest viewing so I just bought it and may make this my first double review in the near future. I'm looking forward to closing some subplots that I thought would remain open forever. Although I truly love this film I don't recommend it to anyone unless you understand that you may very well hate it on the first watch but if it plants a seed in your brain you will be rewarded with one of the most thought provoking experiences ever translated via film. If you disagree I have to doubt your commitment to Sparkle Moon.
For those who still have questions, this analysis video on YouTube is a good place to start.