Donnie Darko (2001)

Made when writer-director Richard Kelly was only 25, this foray into the disturbed mind of a schizophrenic teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal) became a cult favourite.

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“Donnie Darko, the first feature by 26-year-old writer-director Richard Kelly, is a wondrous, moodily self-involved piece of work that employs X-Files magic realism to galvanize what might have been a routine tale of suburban teen angst.”
J. Hoberman, The Village Voice, 2001

Metaphysical foreboding during the Bush-Dukakis debate (it’s 1988) sends suburban teenager Donnie Darko into the night. Coming to in the wilderness of the local golf course, he returns home to a bizarre disaster: a jet engine has dropped out of the sky and crashed through his bedroom ceiling. And this is just the start, as a familiar world of high school and Halloween parties is complicated by time tunnels, apocalyptic visions and the appearance of a sinister man-size rabbit named Frank.

Writer-director Richard Kelly’s cult debut made a star of Jake Gyllenhaal (whose sister Maggie also appears as Donnie’s sister Elizabeth) and – perhaps bizarrest of all – propelled Michael Andrews’s cover version of Mad World to the Christmas number-one slot in the UK Top 40.

Characters from Donnie Darko returned in Chris Fisher’s sequel S. Darko (2009), which starred Daveigh Chase as Donnie’s now 18-year-old sister Samantha.

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