Want my recommendation regarding this movie? Stop reading,
get up, go to the nearest movie theatre and see Memento now.
If you've got a few minutes to spare before the next showing, however,
or if you really must know why you have to see this film, read on.
Memento is about memory. Memory is an elusive, fragmented
thing, but is the cornerstone which we rely upon in how we perceive
and interact with the world. How can you have any sort of meaningful
interaction with another human being when, every time you see them,
it is as if you are meeting them for the first time because you have
no recollection of having seen that person before? How can your life
move forward if you are stuck in a constant cycle of waking up every
morning and trying to piece together where you are and what you are
doing? One of my favorite lines in this film goes something like if
you close your eyes, you know the world is still there. Well, yes,
you do, but the problem is you do not know exactly what it is that
is out there and if you're not careful you could walk in front of
a car and get run over.
Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) has no memories, at least of recent
events. He is a former insurance investigator whose wife was attacked
one night. During his struggle with her attacker, he was hit on the
head and now can remember nothing since the attack for more than a
Leonard's life now revolves around avenging his wife's death.
He tattoos important facts about his investigation onto his body.
He takes Polaroid photographs of people, places, and things he needs
to remember, jotting notes on the back regarding who what they are
and what he needs to remember about each of them. He has a system
and he believes that, with enough self-discipline and repetition of
action, he can function well enough to complete his task.
In the course of his investigation, Leonard comes into repeated
contact with two people: Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Teddy (Joe
Pantoliano). As with everything else in his life, he must photograph
and take notes on them so that he will know whether or not he can
trust them. Are they trying to help him, or are they lying to him
to fulfill their own agendas?
The story is told backwards; that is, it takes a segment of
Leonard's life from point a to point b and runs it in reverse, starting
from b and working back to a. At intervals, there are black-and-white
film snippets of Leonard talking about Sammy Jankins, a man who also
had short-term memory and loss who Leonard investigated when he was
an insurance investigator. As a result of this backwards chronology,
the audience shares with Leonard his confusion regarding what is going
on (for example, he's running down the street thinking Am I chasing
someone, or am I being chased?). Because we can remember, however,
we slowly piece the puzzle together.
Finally, a word about the performances. I've seen Guy Pearce
in four films now as a gleeful transvestite in Priscilla, Queen
of the Desert, Ed Exley the ambitious police detective in L.A.
Confidential, a would-be cannibal in Ravenous, and now
this and he's never disappointed. He is terrific here convincing
and somewhat vulnerable as the would-be hero. Carrie-Anne Moss (The
Matrix, Chocolat) plays Natalie as part cool, inscrutable cypher
and part damsel-in-distress and Joe Pantoliano's Teddy is a fast-talker
who seems to pop up everywhere Leonard happens to be. In both cases,
you never quite know whether Leonard should trust either of them.