A Tip From Christopher Nolan Made Donnie Darko Way Easier to Follow

From Donnie Darko. Featuring a weird rabbit dude.
From Donnie Darko. Featuring a weird rabbit dude.
Image: Newmark Films

It’s been twenty years since Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko, the favored movie of moody teenage boys everywhere. Which makes it a good time to learn a bit new about it.


For the Ringer, Kelly participated in a big oral history on the film, with a lot of interesting information about how it came together. Here’s one of the most fun bits, as pointed out by IndieWire: the film’s notoriously confused timeline was clarified with help from fan of notoriously confused timelines, director Christopher Nolan. Kelly screened the film for Nolan during production, and he played a major role in getting the film distributed. His idea was simple: put some more time in the time movie.

“Chris and his wife, it was their idea to put the parenthetical beneath the title cards,” Kelly said. The parantheticals being the notes keeping track of how many days remain until the disaster, placed under the dates. It’s a neat, simple trick, a way to build dread while also keeping the film comprehensible as it goes all in on timeline shenanigans later on.

I haven’t seen the movie in years, but I remember finding it largely followable, and the timeline clarity is a part of why. So, good job, Christopher Nolan. You do know some things about, like, directing movies or whatever. I guess.

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io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.


David Simmons

“Donnie Darko” is not hard to follow, and I would strongly advise anyone who hasn’t seen it to avoid the Director’s Cut, which makes certain time travel elements of the plot so overt that a lot of the alluring mystery is gone.