Never Mind the Bullocks, Here Comes Memento

Nicole Weikamp

Nicole Weikamp

Here an obscure movie you need to make a trip to a video store for: Memento.

First off, I should warn potential viewers that Memento is not for the casual viewer that likes to make multiple trips to the restroom.

The reason: Memento is told in reverse. That’s right, the movie is shot in reverse order with black and white shots, told chronologically, mixed in. Confused? Not a surprise, Memento is confusing.

The story follows Leonard Shelby (played by an outstanding Guy Pearce), who by his own admission has a condition known as antereograde amnesia. The condition is a result from a blow to the head sustained when he tried to break up a robbery and attempted sexual assault of his wife (CSI’s Jorja Fox).

Convinced that the last thing he saw before he blacked out was his wife’s death, Leonard is on a mission to find the killer that only he believes was there.

He finds that his mission is not as simple as it would seem. As a result of the amnesia he has he is unable to form new memories. Unless he writes something down he is going to forget it fifteen minutes later. To track the killer Leonard tattoos “facts” on his body; to remember his purpose Leonard has the phrase, “John G. raped and murdered your wife” across his chest.

The movie begins with Leonard shooting Teddy (played by with just the right amount of sleaziness by Joe Pantaliano), a man who may or may not be helping him. Each scene from there is told in reverse. The movie is shot in a series of clips about five-minutes long that take place before the previous scene. A person must see the whole movie to try to make sense of the previous clip.

Throughout his search Leonard comes across Natalie (Carrie Anne-Moss). Convinced that Natalie is helping him find the ever elusive “John G.” Leonard kidnaps Dodd, a drug dealer that has ties to Natalie’s boyfriend, who may have ties to Leonard and Teddy as well. Are you confused by now? It’s just one part of Leonard’s life, he doesn’t know who he can trust and who is just using his condition to exploit him for his/her own gain.

Director Christopher Nolan shot the film in reverse to give the viewer a sense of what Leonard has to go through. About halfway through the film you begin to question what you have already seen. I frequently found myself asking “Did that just happen? Wait a minute …” While the audience has the opportunity to hit rewind, a person with Leonard’s condition doesn’t have that sort of luxury. As Leonard says, you learn to test your own handwriting.

The story progresses and Teddy reveals that Leonard already found his John G. There have been multiple John G.’s all over the country that Leonard has tracked down he just doesn’t remember them due to his condition. Who do you believe? Who do you trust?

Memento is full of surprises and needs to be watched closely. Scenes that Leonard remembers as part of someone else’s life may be his own. If you do watch it you will be rewarded with an interesting twist on typical filmmaking. The movie is highlighted by strong performances by all the actors, especially Pantaliano who steals every scene he is in.

Stars: 4.5 out of 5