The Good Reverend Donnie Darko

Andy Rau

Christianity Today has a nice analysis of the underappreciated Donnie Darko. It's an unusual and worthwhile movie, with a lot of serious questions about God lurking behind the surface story. Thomas Hibbs, the article's author, touches on the spiritual heart of the film:

Are there only things? Or are hate and love real? These are the questions Donnie asks in a variety of ways, in word and deed. Interestingly Darko suggests that therapy need not of necessity degenerate into coddling self-help. Donnie's official therapy sessions, with an observant female doctor, turn repeatedly to fundamentals. "There is no God if everyone dies alone," Donnie says at one point; gradually, he learns to re-frame the question whether everyone dies alone in the form of another question, whether anyone can die for anyone else.

Reflecting on my first viewing of Donnie Darko, my initial thoughts focused on the questions of free will, determinism, and self-sacrifice raised by the film--certainly issues of interest to Christians. But since then, I've come to appreciate the movie not so much for its probings into these Deep Theological Issues as for its very earnest depiction of a flawed, everyday person who is stumbling through this world looking for a Truth that he senses but cannot see.

In the movie, Donnie finally comes to an ultimate spiritual decision of sorts--but the way he arrives at that moment of truth is interesting. Instead of learning the truth from a single stirring sermon or speech, or from a single "wise person" who tells him everything he needs to know, he is instead guided to the truth through the varied words and actions of the people he encounters in everyday life. There is a sense that God is using the people around Donnie--his friends, family, and even enemies--to subtly bring him inch by inch to the point of revelation.

I think that God often works in our lives in this manner. There are certainly times when God uses a single, dramatic moment to bring us to our knees in belief and repentance. But just as often, God uses everyday people and events around us to bring us to a realization that we need Him. We may seem to stumble abruptly upon the truth, but looking back we can faintly discern the hand of God leading us through a sea of interactions, traumas, and joys to that point of revelation.

Or perhaps I'm reading too much into the movie. Can you tell it's one of my favorites? Glad to see CT talking about a film that merits more attention from Christians than it's gotten.

Topics: Movies