Richard Kelly's movie Donnie Darko left me bedazzled (but slightly confused) as a kid, and it does the same to me now. In celebration for the movie's 14th 'birthday' on October 26th, I re-watched the whole film twice - including the director's cuts.
Watch this trailer for a trip down memory lane:
I missed a lot of life lessons from this movie when I was a kid because I didn't fully understand its context yet; to be fair, I still don't understand it fully, but here is some of what I learned!
1. Life isn't that simple
When we were children, we always thought we wouldn't have to do work because 'mommy and daddy' would always have our backs - and that we would be shielded from all the dangers and cruelty of the outside world...
And then we grew up and realized that while we will always have love and support from our families (metaphorically speaking), they won't always understand you or really be there for you at all times.
2. Never be afraid to speak out to BS, even when others will raise their eyebrows at you
(Disclaimer: I would do the expository thing just like what Donnie did, if I really can't stand the falseness that everyone else seem to accept - in a different perspective, but in a respective manner.)
Although, you can do it without being too callous, yah know, in a polite and diplomatic way. But still, you shouldn't hesitate to ask questions and express your honest opinion in a constructive manner.
3. When you know you've got a point, never hesitate to speak out
Remember when Donnie was called to read a life-line card about a girl Ling Ling, who found a wallet, returned it, but took away the money? The gym teacher, Kitty Farmer wanted the class to place an 'x' mark on which they think is the appropriate emotion for the situation in the card, claiming that Fear and Love are the deepest of human emotions (disregarding everything else, as Donnie pointed out ).
Relive the hilarious scene:
Well, uh, just refrain from saying stick it up your a$$ or other wonderfully-worded expletives to person you're debating with, just to prove your point.
4. We all experience an existential crisis
We all go through a phase where we just can't stop worrying about things that we're unsure of and can't control. Throw in teenage angst, mental health issues - worsened by the people around you who can't keep their noses where it belongs - you can't help but wonder why you were born with tragedy in your blood.
... And how about the occasional "what's really my purpose in the world?!" Just remember it's okay - we all have these moments sometimes.
5. It's A-OK to be afraid
Fear is like a survival instinct - it keeps us alive and safe from extinction. In Donnie's case, he fears of dying alone or dying thinking that he hasn't done anything to help humanity. This fear is okay. It's absolutely okay to be afraid that you'll die alone. What's not okay is to think as little of yourself as Donnie initially did. Whatever we may be doing with our lives, we're not just existing for the sake of it. Our life has a purpose - we may just not realize it yet.
6. We can't KNOW the answer to everything
Life is interesting because it's uncertain. There are a lot of possibilities. We don't know what the future holds - we can't manipulate time and space, we don't hold the answer about the secrets of the universe. So the next time you think that the universe is conspiring against you - or whether you repeatedly ask yourself if there's God looking out for you - remember that life is ambiguous. We don't have the answer to the cosmos, we can't know everything, and maybe it's better that way.
7. Everyone around you could help you fulfill your destiny
I believe in the so-called 'destiny'. We make our own destinies - but one factor crucial to this is surrounding ourselves with the right people.
Whether they are there to guide you and help you along the way - or they're there to bring you down, all of us are connected to each other in one way or another.
8. Death is inevitable
Roberta Sparrow whispered to Donnie that every living creature on this earth dies alone. It makes you speculate whether at one point in her life, she too, became a Living Receiver (who didn't necessarily die) and then wrote the book - 'The Philosophy of Time Travel'. Grandma Death's words ring true because our deaths will be our own. However, ultimately, no one dies alone if they've touched the lives of those they love.
Life, emotions, people, time, the universe - just a bunch of strangely complicated and beautiful things that we can't control or understand. Watching Donnie Darko - though it is a work of fiction (frankly, I'm not sure if it really was) - gave me a higher sense of speculative understanding. It is a strangely beautiful movie that mirrors life from childhood, adolescence to adulthood, and reminds us that we can either be stuck in a loop - or let things happen as they should be. Like, stop trying to worry about things you can't control - it will only make you depressed.
Once in a while, there could be a glitch in the universe as we know it, but if we were to cease to exist (not like we'd know it), we should hope that the answers come in our sleep. And if the world will truly end, we could breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there is so much more to look forward to.