Screened as part of NZIFF 2002

Donnie Darko 2001

Directed by Richard Kelly

USA In English
122 minutes 35mm

Director, Screenplay


Sean McKittrick
Nancy Juvonen
Adam Fields


Steven Poster


Sam Bauer
Eric Strand


Michael Andrews


Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko)
Jena Malone (Gretchen Ross)
Drew Barrymore (Karen Pomeroy)
Mary McDonnell (Rose Darko)
Holmes Osborne (Eddie Darko)
Katharine Ross (Dr Lillian Thurman)
Patrick Swayze (Jim Cunningham)
Noah Wyle (Dr Monnitoff)
Maggie Gyllenhaal (Elizabeth Darko)
James Duval (Frank)
Beth Grant (Kittie Farmer)


Sundance, London 2001; Rotterdam 2002


"Part comic book, part case study, Donnie Darko is the most venturesome American independent of the past year. A wondrous, moody piece of work that employs X-Files magic realism to galvanise a tale of late 80s suburban teen angst. [Director, Richard] Kelly fiddles with normality from the opening scene, wherein the sitcom Darko family gathers to partake of a delivered pizza and the revelation that middle child Donnie is off his medication and receiving messages from outer space. That night, Donnie is summoned from his bedroom and thus avoids the plane engine that inexplicably crashes through the ceiling. Increasingly delusional, he is convinced that the world will end in 28 days. With Drew Barrymore as Donnie’s English teacher, Katharine Ross as his therapist, and Patrick Swayze as a demonic motivational speaker, the casting is both showy and inspired. But the emotional weight rests on the hunched shoulders of Jake Gyllenhaal who, refusing to make direct contact with the camera, convincingly portrays Donnie’s eccentric genius. Although the big influence seems the apocalyptic Magnolia, the film is steeped in 1980s pop culture. Donnie Darko has received a mixed response. No less than its hero, the movie has its awkward moments. But Kelly has a sure sense of his own narrative, skillfully guiding it through the climactic carnival of souls." — J. Hoberman, Critics Choice, Rotterdam Film Festival 

"Many of the elements here are those of a mid-80s John Hughes movie, or for that matter of the Back to the Future films, an influence that Kelly specifically acknowledges… Kelly takes these elements of pop storytelling and stretches them into something transcendent, personal and deeply strange. When Donnie Darko echoes or quotes scenes from Nightmare on Elm Street or The Abyss, I don’t think it’s a film-school homage but rather a recognition that those images have overflowed their containers and now inhabit the general Jungian subcellar. Kelly’s blend of satire, period piece and tragic love story is itself a kind of cultural archetype that extends from American Beauty and The Virgin Suicides back to Peggy Sue Got Married and well beyond. But few filmmakers of any era have blended the sensibilities of pop and art film so effortlessly, or combined them with such a haunting tale of loss and redemption… Kelly is just 26, but while Donnie Darko is a young man’s film in its brashness and daring (and its slightly overthickened satire), it’s not a movie by a kid." — Andrew O’Hehir,