Analysis of Donnie Darko

Summary "Donnie Darko" is a movie about a troubled teenager named Donnie who is plagued by visions and hallucinations. One night, a grotesque bunny named Frank informs him that the world is going to end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. Donnie becomes increasingly paranoid as the days countdown, trying to uncover the truth about his visions and dealing with family tensions and school drama. With the help of his girlfriend Gretchen and the guidance of a book, Donnie must confront his fears and accept his fate. The movie ends with Donnie's heroic sacrifice, using time travel to save the ones he loves and reset the timeline, avoiding the end of the world.



Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Donnie Darko Donnie Darko starts off as a disoriented and rebellious teenager with mental health issues, searching for direction and answers. As he becomes more detached from society and reality, he begins to experience supernatural forces and visions that lead him to a deeper understanding of himself and his purpose. He displays bravery and reluctant heroism, ultimately sacrificing himself to fix the timeline and save those he cares about, demonstrating his growth and acceptance of his fate. The character arc is well-developed and effectively portrays the growth and transformation of Donnie Darko throughout the movie. However, some parts of his journey feel rushed or underdeveloped, such as his relationship with Gretchen and his fascination with death. While these elements add to his character, they could have been explored more fully.
To improve the character arc, there could have been more emphasis on Donnie's relationships with others, particularly Gretchen, to further highlight his growth and emotional depth. Additionally, further development of his interest in death and mortality could have added more nuance to his character. Overall, more attention to detail in these areas could have made the character arc even more impactful and memorable.
Rose Rose starts off as a stressed and controlling mother who is struggling to connect with her family. Throughout the movie, she becomes more concerned, caring, and motherly towards her son, Donnie. She realizes the importance of emotional connection and tries to bridge the gap between her and her family. At the end of the movie, Rose becomes older, but still sharp-witted and observant, with a strong intuition. The character arc for Rose seems a bit underdeveloped and lacks significant growth. While there is some progression in her character, it is not fully explored or impactful enough to leave a lasting impression.
To improve the character arc for Rose, the movie could have given her more screentime and a more defined conflict to overcome. This would allow for a more significant growth in her character and a stronger connection with the audience. Additionally, showing more of her relationship with Donnie could add depth to her character and provide a stronger emotional payoff at the end of the movie.
Frank Frank starts the movie as a mysterious and possibly supernatural figure guiding Donnie towards some kind of destiny and ends up being revealed as an antagonist who has been manipulating Donnie throughout the film. His motivations remain unclear, but his death raises more questions than answers and leaves the audience wondering about his true nature. While Frank's arc is interesting and keeps the audience engaged, it feels somewhat incomplete. His motivations and true nature are never fully explained, and his death leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
To improve Frank's arc, it would be helpful to provide more backstory and information about him throughout the movie. This would make his motivations clearer and make his eventual reveal more impactful. Additionally, resolving some of the unanswered questions surrounding his death would help give the audience a sense of closure.
Donnie Donnie starts off as a troubled but curious teenager who is struggling to make sense of his experiences with Frank and his own mortality. As the story progresses, Donnie becomes more determined and brave, showing his protective and caring side towards others, particularly Gretchen. However, his decision to kill Frank raises questions about his morality and the consequences of his actions. The character arc for Donnie could be more clearly defined and developed throughout the film. His mental health struggles and fascination with time travel are established early on but could be better connected to his motivations and actions later in the story. Additionally, the resolution of the story and Donnie's ultimate fate could be more satisfying and less confusing.
To improve Donnie's character arc, the film could more explicitly connect his mental health struggles and fascination with time travel to his motivations and actions. Additionally, the resolution of the story could be clarified and made more satisfying by providing more context and explanation for the strange events that have occurred. Donnie's ultimate fate could also be more clearly defined and connected to his character arc throughout the film.
Dr. Thurman Dr. Thurman starts off as a trained therapist who wants to help Donnie but doesn't fully understand his experiences, as she becomes concerned about his erratic behavior, suspects he may be experiencing hallucinations or delusions, and is patient and understanding but also skeptical of his claims. Throughout the movie, she continues to work with Donnie and becomes more open to his experiences, eventually embracing and believing in them as a means to help him come to terms with his anxiety and existential concerns. The character arc for Dr. Thurman is decent but lacks significant development. Her change of heart feels a bit too sudden and unearned, as we do not see enough evidence of her questioning her initial skepticism and embracing Donnie's experiences. Additionally, her character is somewhat one-dimensional and lacks significant depth.
To improve her character arc, we recommend providing more details about why Dr. Thurman becomes more open to Donnie's experiences. Perhaps she sees tangible evidence that supports his claims, or she starts to experience similar visions herself. Additionally, adding some personal conflicts or backstory for Dr. Thurman could add more depth to her character and make her more relatable to the audience.
Gretchen Gretchen starts off as a new student who is drawn to Donnie despite his strange behavior. She stands up for herself against bullying and becomes Donnie's love interest and confidante. She is a supporting character who provides a sense of stability and hope for Donnie. However, her tragic death adds to the emotional impact of the movie and fuels Donnie's journey towards acceptance and understanding. The character arc for Gretchen is well developed, but her death feels more like a plot device to further Donnie's story rather than a fully realized end to her own arc. It also perpetuates the trope of the 'fridged girlfriend', where a female character is killed off to motivate the male protagonist.
To improve Gretchen's character arc, she should have more agency and her own storyline beyond her relationship with Donnie. Perhaps she too is struggling with mental health issues or has her own interests in the paranormal. This would make her death more impactful as it would be the end of her own character arc rather than just a catalyst for Donnie's journey.