The Atlantic

How Donnie Darko Captures the Spirit of Lent

The 2001 cult film is a surprisingly ideal movie for the Christian time of reflection leading up to Easter Sunday.
Source: Pandora Cinema / Newmarket Films

In 2004, my future wife and I went to see The Passion of the Christ after it opened in theaters on the first day of Lent. Our experience seeing Mel Gibson’s epic drama about the final hours of Jesus’s life had an extra devotional sheen to it: We seemed to be the only people in the theater who weren’t members of a local evangelical church. During the previews, the pastor stood at the front of the auditorium and led the audience in prayer. My wife and I felt like outsiders in a strange world, both before and during the movie. As Catholics, our faith has often been personal and subtle; The Passion of the Christ is anything but. In detailing the agony of Jesus’s last moments so viscerally, it becomes almost literalist. We left afterward feeling exhausted and

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