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.

June 21st 2014 | 21:14:03

Why did Donnie pretend to stab Frank in the eye?

June 21st 2014 | 21:14:02

Why did Donnie pretend to stab Frank in the eye?

June 19th 2014 | 4:04:42

He may also believe that Heaven transcends the Primary and Tangent universes and that the Gretchen he knew will be there.

June 19th 2014 | 4:03:31

He may have even thought that in some roundabout way death would bring him into heaven with the Gretchen from the Tangent Universe. Since he doesn't have full knowledge of the TU and PU it's understandable for him to assume this.

June 19th 2014 | 4:01:23

I believe Donnie chose to die because he wanted to take all the pain and misery of the last 28 days and replace them with something beautiful. That beautiful thing, in his case, would be death because he can never unsee what he has seen and been through and he would rather just sleep for eternity.

June 14th 2014 | 1:06:50

i see so many alternative explanations. many make sense, and truly make me think. and as i sit here and think about all these good points that people are making and helping me think about the whole movie and what its really about... i also come to realize how much im thinking. think. think. think. and then it hit me. what if, maybe, there was a purpose to the concept of making us think. this movie is based on the concept of the universe, and humans ever do is think about the universe & the possibilities of time travel and alternate universes.. and we have to think and think and think. this movie is based on the idea of all 3 things, so what if maybe the purpose of this movie is to make us think. but not just think and get frustrated over the fact how we do not have answers, but to think about how it is okay not to have the answers.

June 8th 2014 | 9:04:53

still very new to the movie, having my typical up-all-night reaction to movies that make me think; haven't read all the comments, but haven't seen this one anywhere, here or otherwise: is no one else bothered by the fact that donnie doesn't seem to know his sister has a boyfriend named frank?? the wikipedia article mentions him as her boyfriend in the plot summary like it's an obvious given, but i don't know where that comes from because it's awfully cagey of Kelly to keep such a critical plot point so very well and conveniently hidden behind everything else going on. talk about deus ex machina. granted, everyone in the family seem to be unusually (refreshingly) authentic individuals with actual private lives they have the leisure of keeping to themselves, but (once you've seen it more than once, it becomes apparent) maggie is always on the phone and she is most likely always talking to frank, since we never see her with anyone else at all, but his existence is at least quietly implied by the honk of his retreating car after she sneaks in the front door just before the freak accident. anyway, if elizabeth knows donnie is off his meds, then somehow it seems only fair he should know she has a boyfriend. but maybe--since my own personal feeling about the metaphor underlying the scifi/mental illness framework is at least in part about our truly sucky ineptitude at connecting and communicating, especially as those abilities must have figured into our survival as a species--maybe a point is being subtly made about how emotionally isolated he is by his existential love/fear angst dilemma if he doesn't even know his sister has a boyfriend, or his name or what he looks like. because if he did, everything would have been cleared up a lot faster and probably made a very different movie. so either he does know who frank is, in which case it would be kinda weird to never mention it in referring to him, or at the VERY least to recognize him when the "stupid bunny suit" head comes off; or, he doesn't know it, in which case he should have more of a reaction one way or the other to the memo board note "Frank was here - went out for beer!" (which is probably intentionally made to resemble donnie's own handwriting). but props to jake gyllenhaal, whose awesome talent for facial expressions keeps you guessing throughout as to what he knows or thinks or feels, and even whether he's awake or sleepwalking or feeling pharmaceutically stupid.

June 2nd 2014 | 2:51:13

The whole plot is based on Donnie Darko's DREAM. If you think about the whole plot it becomes so clear. One of the last scenes of the movie where Donnie smiles very jubilantly is among the most important scenes in the film. As the author of this site stated, we DO see a very different Donnie from the scene where hes in his bed in the beginning film and the Donnie in his bed at the end of the film. Whys that? Well he's happy that he didn't have to ACTUALLY go through any of that scary end of the world stuff and he appreciates his life more because of the dream and hes happy he gets to wake up and live his life the next day in the primary universe (Where he's been the WHOLE movie). Theres convincing evidence of him having a dream the whole movie just by the way the people in the movie are acting in the film. THEY are being secretively pushy and manipulating to get Donnie to do something, which is to WAKE UP from his dream, or in his dream, to save the universe (The metaphor here is that they are trying to get him to wake up from the dream). When you have a bad dream/nightmare, your thoughts will convince you that the people in your dream that are talking to you are real and that they control you, when in reality, that is you doing it to yourself. YOU are the one in control of your dream, your life, exc, NOT anyone else. The manipulated dead and living are all made up because THEY are controlled by Donnie Darko. YES this theory may make the plot pointless to some but its the most convicning theory for this film considering there is so many mysteries in the film and questions being asked by people who watched it.

Donnie Darko
May 30th 2014 | 18:14:29

Im gay.

May 30th 2014 | 8:05:37

In the theater when Frank appears (for whom the bell tolls is playing),and Donnie asks "what happened to your eye?" Frank responds with a very sincere "I am so sorry", and for a moment Donnie seems to fight back tears. What is frank sorry for? I guess Frank could know he has killed or will kill Gretchen so he could be sorry for that. Or there seems to be an understanding that Donnie will have to die alone (what he fears the most), is that what Frank is sorry for?

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Frank - Manipulated Dead
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