Viewed – 19 December 2016
For a while there, around the time of this movie’s release the as yet unknown Jake Gyllenhaal was the poster boy for a generation of disaffected teens. Now regarded as a cult movie, this decidedly anti-teen drama still strikes a cord, with it’s dream-like atmosphere and obvious Lynchian stylings. Gyllenhaal plays troubled school kid Donnie who suffers from depression, has a past linked to burning a house down and seemingly can’t relate to the world around him. He also happens to have an imaginary friend called Frank, a guy dressed up in a rabbit costume. Following a freak accident where an aircraft engine falls out of the sky and through the roof of his bedroom, Donnie tries to piece together various clues supposedly leading to the end of the world.
A blend of styles, from sci-fi, Twilight Zone and high school angst to David Lynch-like urban paranoia – makes for a decidedly unique experience topped off with an unhinged central performance from Gyllenhaal. Along for the ride is welcome support from an alluring Drew Barrymore, a very young looking Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal and the late Patrick Swayze. It defies conventions and is pretty bizarre, but is also a movie that really made me think about life and death, the choices we make, paths we go on etc. This is all aided by an effective, ethereal score and great 80s themed music cues, the most memorable being Gary Jules’ eerily brilliant version of Mad World.
It’s probably not a movie for everyone, is slow in places and leaves some moments unexplained. However as an introduction to one of my favourite actors, and as a high school movie that really had a profound impact on me … I give this my highest recommendation.
The Blu-ray is (mostly) impressive stuff. The image quality I’m guessing is purposely soft, to create that dream-aesthetic, so disappoints with flat colours and a smudgy, dull appearance throughout. However, sound fairs much better with crisp dialogue, good use of surrounds and each music moment is particularly effective. However it’s in the extra material where this Arrow Video Limited Edition blew me away. We get two cuts of the movie, including the longer Director’s Cut, which primarily adds greater emphasis to the sci-fi elements with on-screen extracts from the time travel book featured in both versions, extra symbolism and some scenes are extended or slightly altered. Ultimately though this version doesn’t differ all that much from the original but perhaps is a little clearer in some of it’s themes. However the mystery of the theatrical cut is for me what makes it so effective. There’s a wealth of supplementary material included, like interviews and deleted scenes. Stand outs though are two audio commentaries on the theatrical cut from cast and production crew, as well as another on the director’s cut. Add to this a detailed collector’s book and I’d say this is one of the most packed Blu-rays you can currently buy.
(the movie) 5 /5
(the Blu-ray) 4 /5