Donnie Darko is the first film I became obsessed with as an adult – well, I say adult. I was 17 when I saw it, but the Richard Kelly debut had something of a strong impact on me. Even if its bizarre imagery of airplane parts, hallucinatory giant bunny rabbits and time portals had more of a style over substance tack to it, the moody atmosphere of the movie, as well as its sharp dissection of smalltown America, makes it a modern classic in my eyes.
This weekend, I shall watch it again. A couple of years ago, I actually got to write a piece on the film for SciFiNow, but I feel my taste in the sci-fi genre has progressed a little since then. I’m keen to see how my experience of Donnie Darko as an adult will contrast to that of my teenage, vaguely anarchic and irritating self.
Still, as a measure of its success as a mainstream movie, it’s not the visual effects I recall so clearly when I reflect on the picture – it’s the warmth of the dynamic within Donnie’s family (bolstered by great performances from Mary McDonnell and Holmes Osborne), or Donnie telling his ultra-conservative teacher where to go, or Donnie being confronted by a bully in the school toilets.
It’s a very introspective movie, laser-focused on characterisation above its higher-concepts. In my opinion, it’s the way sci-fi always should be.