Review: Donovan’s Echo

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The feature film debut of Canadian director Jim Cliffe, Donovan’s Echo, is a supernaturally-tinged mystery featuring an incredible performance from the legendary Danny Glover. The film introduces us to Donovan Matheson (Danny Glover), whose wife and daughter were killed in a 1964 car accident. 30 years later,Donovan returns to his old home and begins experiencing moments of déjà vu which lead him to believe that a young neighbour and her mother will be killed on the anniversary of his family’s death.

The film combines an interesting narrative concept and strong performances   across the board. Natasha Calis plays Maggie, the young neighbour about whom Donovan is worried. The two characters are drawn together when Donovan witnesses a car accident that claims the life of Maggie’s father. Donovan’s brother-in-law Finnley (Bruce Greenwood) is a member of the police force investigating the crash. After questioning Donovan about what he saw, Finnley learns that Donovan somehow had a feeling the crash would happen.

From there, the story begins to explore the idea of déjà vu in a very unique way. In 1964, Donovan had feelings that terrible accidents would happen, but they never did. 30 years later he has déjà vu of those same moments, but now he’s able to prevent those accidents. The interesting mystery with which the viewer must struggle is whether Donovan is unintentionally causing the accidents or actually preventing them. With the anniversary of his family’s death approaching, could his guilt about not saving them be causing him to believe that another tragedy will occur?

While Donovan’s déjà vu is obviously a major factor in the film, it’s the way in which people deal with their grief that is the true focus of the film. Maggie must deal with her father’s death while Donavon is still trying to accept that he had nothing to do with his family’s accident long ago. 30 years may separate the tragedies with which each character must deal, but the ways in which they each grieve are very similar. Grief creates a bond between Maggie and Donovan that is viewed in a variety of different ways: while we can see that their bond is actually quite innocent, other characters become concerned that it may mean more than it seems to.

At first, Donovan doesn’t give much thought to his déjà vu . But eventually, it begins to eat away at him and causes his paranoia about the future. Finnley is caught in the middle: he wants to help Donovan, but as a police officer, Finnley must put a stop to Donovan’s erratic and dangerous behaviour.   It’s Finnley to which the audience can relate best. Like him, we want to believe that Donovan is only trying to do what he thinks is right, but it becomes harder to do so as the story moves along.

There are a lot of pieces to put together in the film: mysterious flashes of the past, unfamiliar names and places, etc. While confusing at first, everything eventually fits (perhaps too easily). It isn’t difficult for a viewer to stay a step ahead of the characters. This might otherwise be frustrating, but the film handles it well. It’s the tension of waiting to see if Donovan will prevent an expected tragedy that will have you on the edge of your seat.

With such an interesting mystery, great performances, and themes of hope and acceptance, Donovan’s Echo is a great debut for Jim Cliffe. The film opens on February 24 at the Scotiabank Theatre, 259 Richmond Street West.


Raised on a healthy diet of Star Wars and every horror film on a video store shelf, Will has been watching movies since before he was able to talk. Inspired by an ever growing passion for film, and the occasional mind control experiment, Will began writing film review on his personal blog, The Film Reel. When the mind control experiments actually worked, he was able to secure a position with Toronto Film Scene. He now waits patiently in the TFS basement for October to come every year, when his love for horror films finally pays off.

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