“I have to believe in a world outside my own mind. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world’s still there. Do I believe the world’s still there?”
– Leonard Shelby
Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) has a problem. He has anterograde amnesia. He cannot create new short term memories, which serves to be an issue seeing as he is on an important mission. He is researching something, he is working something out, something big and important, and is being helped along by his friend (as far as he knows) named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano). Leonard’s condition is due to an attack he and his wife suffered, and that he was unsuccessful in preventing – his home was broken into and his wife (Jorja Fox) was raped and murdered by a man he believes to be called John G.
Teddy is helping Leonard track down John G, to exact justice for the atrocities that his wife suffered. Leonard has a system to keep on top of things. Notes are jotted down, his body is tattooed with clues and facts he knows to be vital to the case. He has Polaroid photographs of all the people around him as well as notes to himself about them as well as where he stays and what not. The most important story he tells himself to remind him about what is wrong with him is the story of Sammy Jankis (Stephen Tobolowsky), a man who suffered from the same type of amnesia, and a claim that Leonard was supposed to look into when he was still an insurance investigator. Leonard was unsure as to whether Sammy’s condition was true or not, though his wife (Harriet Sansom Harris) tested the theory and had her husband overdose her on her insulin.
Another woman assisting Leonard in his vengeance plan is Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss), who will help him out of pity because she, too, lost someone. She also happens to be his lover, though he does not always remember this. Leonard is staying at a motel, and every day he has reminders for himself as well as little bits of a mission he is working on. Teddy is assisting Leonard as much as he can, retracing Leonard’s footsteps as well as helping to work through the case files that were originally involved with the attach on Leonard and his wife. Something is not right, but Leonard cannot put his finger on it, and is likely to forget it when he does if he does not document it.
Leonard believes that Teddy is the one that raped and murdered his wife, and is set on killing the man for what he did. His investigation and notes lead him to suspect this. Teddy’s real name is John Edward Gammell, and his car’s licence plate matches up with the one that Leonard knows to belong to John G. But is Teddy truly guilty? Why is Natalie so intent on helping Leonard out? Can they ever have a regular relationship due to his condition? Is Leonard’s condition a physical one or a mental one? Will he be able to overcome it? What exactly happened with his wife in the attack, however long ago that was?
I really enjoyed this movie. Once again, Christopher Nolan demonstrates his prowess with another solid film that progresses in such a way that you are hooked but never lost, though forever asking questions. Memento also had a really unique way of presenting the story, and it was fresh and new, unlike most films. The performances from the cast were great, and Guy Pearce shone in his role of Leonard, giving the character far more credibility than you could think. There was some humour throughout the film, but it was not overbearing or anything to take away from the subject of the film. A lot of it stems from Leonard’s condition, and how it can put him in a lot of danger, but also let a lot of people take advantage of him. The way the story was told was completely compelling, and doesn’t have a single boring moment to it. The score worked for it, too, and it was just overall a really good film that was highly enjoyable. A fine film to find yourself watching, kitted out with a fantastic cast and an exceptionally interesting plot, Memento offers a unique presentation that will keep you on your toes for the duration of it.