Donnie Darko
Franks Eye

Unanswered Questions

Even though the main explanation is consistent and ties the whole movie together there are still a few parts of the movie that are not explained and have to rely on theory. Here are some of those questions with possible explanations and some common mistakes people make.

What Creates The Tangent Universe

Time PortalWhy exactly does a Tangent Universe (TU) occur? Are they a natural phenomenon or are they artificially created. There is one theory that scientists in the future build a machine that somehow causes a rip in time back in the past. Another theory is it could have been caused by Alien involvement.

Quite a common thought is Frank saving Donnie in the beginning is the cause of the TU. Donnie was meant to die and by surviving he altered things which caused the corruption. This is not true though, we are already within the TU when Frank wakes Donnie up. Frank's special powers only work within the TU so he would only be able to wake Donnie after the TU had started.

The same goes for the Artifact not being the cause of the corruption. The jet engine appears several minutes after the TU had started. The Philosophy of Time Travel states that the Artifact is the first sign of evidence that a TU has occurred.

The First Jet Engine

The ArtifactOne major question is where does the jet engine in the beginning of the movie come from originally? If it came from the future where exactly and what day did it come from?

A common answer to this question is it's the same engine Donnie sends through the portal from the plane his mother and sister were on. The engine travels through time and lands on Donnie's house. It's exactly the same event as the end of the film only the first time round Donnie survives.

This is extremely unlikely though as the portals are just a gateway between the two Universes. The first engine lands in the Tangent Universe (TU) so if it came through a portal it would have to come from the Primary Universe (PU). The engine Donnie rips of the plane at the end is from the TU and travels through a portal into the PU so there is no way it can be the same event repeating.

If it did come from a future point in the PU once the corruption is fixed by Donnie that future event won't happen now so we will never find out exactly how it occurred.

Another theory is the Tangent Universe is a copy of the Primary Universe but as it's being formed there is a glitch or copying error. This error produces a duplicate engine that is then dumped into Donnie's bedroom. This anomaly makes the TU even more unstable and it must be sent into the PU.

Roberta Sparrow: The Philosophy Of Time Travel

Roberta Sparrow (Grandma Death)Roberta Sparrow writes the book "The Philosophy Of Time Travel" which helps guide Donnie but how exactly did she know all this information? There are a few plausible explanations for this. It seems like she had a similar experience herself so either she was a Living Receiver or one of the Manipulated Dead in a previous Tangent Universe.

Both options would in theory give her all the information required. If she was a Living Receiver she would obviously have known what to do and the Manipulated Dead have a large understanding of what is happening within a Tangent Universe. It's possible she may have somehow retained some of the information from her experience once the Primary Universe started up again.

Does Donnie Have To Die

Donnie DarkoThis subject is one of the most debated parts of the movie. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking Donnie waking up and cheating death in the beginning is what caused the Tangent Universe (TU) to occur. The assumption is then once the Primary Universe is restored Donnie stays in bed otherwise he risks causing another TU to start and the whole cycle will repeat. This theory is not correct though, Donnie and Frank have nothing to do with the creation of the TU.

We hear about other Living Receivers in The Philosophy of Time Travel who were killed by the Artifact they returned. If we include Donnie then it seems the Living Receiver always dies once the Primary Universe is restored. The question is what would happen if Donnie got out of bed again and survived? The moment we see Donnie laughing in bed at the end the Primary Universe is already restored. If Donnie got out of bed and dodged the second engine after that then in theory nothing would change as the corruption is already fixed.

Another important point is whether Donnie chooses to die. The Donnie we see in bed at the end is not the same Donnie from the last 28 days. How much knowledge he has of what happened in the TU is very questionable and it’s quite unlikely he knows he is about to die.

The question of destiny plays quite a big part here, Donnie was meant to die but Frank saved him. It’s possible he was chosen as the Living Receiver because his life is now expendable; he is going to die anyway. Once back in the real world it's Donnie's destiny to die.

November 17th 2013 | 17:03:27

His mom and sister were never on the plane in PU, only in the TU. Once Donnie set things right in the PU by sending the jet engine through the portal, the past 28 days were erased. Therefore the mom and sister were never on the plane, time goes back to the moment in the PU when Frank called Donnie out of bed. They were all asleep in bed.

Joe Clark
November 9th 2013 | 8:35:52

I think Donnie HAS to die in the PU because, just like the Manipulated Dead, his superhuman powers originate from him being dead in one universe but alive in the other. Frank and Gretchen die in the TU, but not in the PU, so they have the most profound Manipulated Actions. Donnie ALONE dies in the PU but not the TU, which grants him the powers of the Living Receiver: seeing the future, telekinesis, superhuman strength. If he didn't "allow" himself to die, he wouldn't have the powers in the TU to telekinetically send the engine through the wormhole-of-impending-doom and fix everything. You have to remember that all of this is predicated on the "concept" that the 4th dimension (time) gets "broken" or f's up from time-to-time. This means there is no Cause-THEN-Effect, timelines goes out the window. Of course, none of this will make 100% sense because it is Sci-Fi after all :P

Ha-Mo, it's possible that the plane's pilot was a Manipulated Living, and subconsciously led him to the exact spot he needed to be to drop that plane on the CHOSEN ONE: Donnie.

October 23rd 2013 | 3:55:21

Does the mom and lil sister die?

October 11th 2013 | 23:42:07

QUESTION! Why was the old lady waiting for mail? I know she was waiting for donnies letter, but couldn't she have just talked to him? he lives right there...
ANOTHER QUESTION! What was the significance of the lady's quote, "Every creature on earth dies alone."???

Mallory H.
October 5th 2013 | 20:10:54

The short part where it shows Donnie's mom and his little sister Samantha on the plane doesn't seem to be that emphasized. If the engine that fell in Donnie's room, that he ripped the engine off of, in the end in the PU came from that same plane, then wouldn't that mean his mom and sister would've died or possibly gotten injured from that accident? It never says anything about the actual plane the engine came from, yet in that short scene it just shows his mom and sister on that plane. And then, when the engine falls in Donnie's room it shows his mom waking up at the house in her bedroom? Was the plane his mom and sister were on in the TU or PU? Cause of it were in that PU then that would mean his mom and sister wouldn't have even been at the house at the time the engine fell through the roof. Very interesting.

Mallory H.
October 5th 2013 | 20:01:14

This is an incredible movie. Probably the best I've ever seen. It's a very complicated story with a lot of in's and out's that we may never know. That's something that contributes to making this such an amazing film.

October 4th 2013 | 20:23:33

When Donnie's parents are at the PTA meeting and Donnie is in the bathroom poking at Frank behind the force field (or whatever it is) he is poking the same exact eye that Donnie shoots later on at Sparrow's house. I think something may be manipulating Donnie to do that. Possibly the liquid line that comes out of Donnie's chest earlier in the movie. When Donnie was lead into his parent's room by the same liquid thing it took the shape of a hand luring him in. What could that have been. Possibly the liquid thing was telling Donnie to poke at Frank's right eye foreshadowing what Donnie was to do in the future, shooting Frank's right eye.

October 1st 2013 | 23:39:38

The portal between the TU and the PU are located at the same exact arises of both universes (giving the TU is a duplicate of PU). Let's say that wind or other elements could affect the landing spot of the artifact. There is 2 explanations why it land on Donnie's bed:-

(1) We saw at the beginning of the movie that the jet engine landed on TU version of Donnie 's bed at 2nd Oct. Considering that TU is identical duplicate of PU. All external elements like wind speed, direction extra that effected the jet engine to land on Donnie's bed in TU would be exactly the same in the PT and evidently would result on landing on the bed at 2nd Oct in the PU.

(2) Scientists studying time travel assumed some theories to overcome problems related to time travel paradox. Let's say for example that you are playing snooker and you hit the white ball which sequentially hit a red ball. Let's say that the red ball entered a portal that allow the ball to travel 5 seconds in the past before the white ball hits the red ball. In one of the scenarios; the red ball from the future could hit the red ball from the present in a way that doesn't allow the red ball from the present to enter the portal. This is a paradox, since if the red ball from the present didn't enter the portal; that would eliminate the red ball from the future traveling in the first place. To solve this, scientists suggested that for time travel to the past to be real, all landing possibility exists except the ones that impede the object from traveling in the past by its future version. The same thing for the jet engine, the only possible way for the jet engine to travel to the PU is to land at the exact spot of Donnie's bed; other possibilities eliminated.

September 29th 2013 | 8:53:09

I don't think I've seen anyone ask this question yet: why did the jet engine Donnie sent from the TU to the PU have to land in his bedroom? Why couldn't it have landed in, say, the Atlantic ocean? Or Detroit for that matter?

Chris R
September 23rd 2013 | 0:17:11

On the question of the loop:

Donnie: "Why do they call you Frank?"

Frank: "It is the name of my father. [Knowing, weary smirk] And his father before me."

Note that he didn't say "and his father before HIM", but "ME". So this not only implies multiple-instances of Frank/Tangent Universe, but they exist in a loop (grandfather begets father, father begets son, son begets grandfather). And the smirk implies that this has happened so many times before (like Neo in the Matrix) that he is as tired of it as Donnie.

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Eddie Darko - Manipulated Living
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