What Does The Ending Of Donnie Darko Really Mean?

Unravelling Richard Kelly's mind-bending debut.

Newmarket Films

Has any director ever fallen as hard from grace as Richard Kelly? Though he went from Citizen Kane at the start to frozen food commercials by the end, even Orson Welles managed a few extra masterpieces in between; Richard Kelly, on the other hand, only ever managed one before his career hit the skids: 2001's Donnie Darko.

Even then, it was a few years before people caught on - Donnie Darko bombed hard at cinemas, owing largely to its unfortunate release date (the film's plane crash didn't chime well so soon after September 11th, so it was dumped in a handful of cinemas at the end of October). Thankfully, word-of-mouth and the burgeoning DVD market helped the film slowly gain a reputation as a modern classic.

Since Donnie Darko, writer-director Kelly has only made the critically-maligned Southland Tales and The Box, neither of which caught on with film fans the way Darko did. Thankfully for Kelly, his debut film endures; though heavily steeped in '80s nostalgia, the film has managed to feel timeless, like a summary of the period incorporating science fiction, teen drama and quasi-mystery elements.

And the film's mystery is a major factor in the reason why audiences still return to it to this day. Hardly a straightforward movie, Donnie Darko is a substantial piece of pulp that - rich in meaning - defies any one interpretation.

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Lover of film, writer of words, pretentious beyond belief. Thinks Scorsese and Kubrick are the kings of cinema, but PT Anderson and David Fincher are the dashing young princes. Follow Brogan on twitter if you can take shameless self-promotion: @BroganMorris1