Baylor University professor Thomas Hibbs explores this question in an article for Christianity Today. First, and most obviously, Hibbs suggests that Donnie Darko's ascendency can be attributed to a general thirst among young people for films with substance and meaning. College students want, Hibbs notes, something better than the "superficially flattering portrait of sophisticated, jaded, and self-satisfied teens routinely provided by Hollywood." This is obviously true, but what about the content of the film– its metaphysics, its significance?

Hibbs doesn't express exasperation (as many do) at the film's blatantly inconclusive nature. (Think about the first time you saw the film and just  how long you spent trying to figure out what, exactly, had happened?) He even casts a light of sympathy on this directorial choice, applauding it for leaving some of life's bigger questions, as the should be, open.

None of this is to say that a persistent and unquenched thirst for meaning is a good thing. In fact, Hibbs aruges the opposite. He seems to think that teenage brooding and pop psychology alike are not desirable in themselves:

"…bereft of direction or models of compelling beauty and sacrifice—aimless, adolescent longing will turn to destruction. One of the lessons of a film such as Darko is that facile self-help transcendence is as likely to breed reactionary nihilism in some children as it is to produce compliant souls in others."

Interesting. I rather like to see teen angst put in its place. Hibbs does not leave us without answers to these questions, and does not think college students should abandon their questioning. Rather, he suggest students should take a look at the Graham Greene story "The Destructors" (which I plan to soon) for a richer exploration into these questions.

Daniel Corbett