The 'Donnie Darko' screening at Bristol's Underground Cinema

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Bristol's Redcliffe Caves make for a fantastic, if pricey, venue to rewatch all your favourite classic films; next on the list, Donnie Darko. By Leah Roberts.

Shown as part of Bristol Film Festival's Underground Cinema screenings, Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko follows the story of teenager Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) after he survives a freak accident, and the resulting emotional changes he experiences as an extremely creepy rabbit advises him about the impending end of the world. This cult classic was one of the most-popular films of 2001 and continues to be enjoyed by audiences in anniversary showings in cinemas today.

Gyllenhaal's performance as the psychologically-troubled Donnie was humorous as well as captivating; it's easy to feel empathy for the lead as he causes trouble for his parents and teachers. The feeling of engagement in the audience was high, considering most of the audience had probably seen the film several times. However, a bit of amusement was provided with the slow realisation by the audience that young Seth Rogen is in the film - this caused a surprising amount of hushed discussion and mild outrage during the showing.

this cult classic... continues to be enjoyed by audiences in anniversary showings in cinemas today

Reflecting on the film in the modern day, an issue to be brought up with the film is the portrayal of mental health and the medication of children in America. Donnie's parents are faced with the prospect that he's schizophrenic, and the advice that the therapist gives is to up his medication and his parents blindly agree. The idea of labelling patients with such a diagnosis when there is not much information, and the willingness of parents to follow along with what a therapist is saying, is a problem that is constantly brought up in regards to the American health care system, and is highlighted in this film. Donnie himself jokes that they pay his therapist $200 a hour to talk about topics he already talks about with his siblings. Medication is
advertised on television and is widely available to the public, provided you have the means to pay for it.

The location itself, Redcliffe Caves, was what made this such an interesting event; the caves were themed as a nuclear bunker for the night, with screens showing former politicians' speeches and an oddly placed clip of astronauts falling over on the moon. The only issue with the event is that it was not very accessible - the tickets were £18 for a concession, which unsurprisingly led to the room being filled with middle-aged people, as few students would be willing to shell out such a fee when the DVD can be found in charity shops for 50p. With the website for the Bristol Film Festival claiming their mission is to "offer something for everybody", the steep prices are rather disappointing.

Photo credit: Catherine Gillott / Bristol Film Festival


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