Some issues with Memento
Another great film by Nolan but some things don’t sit right.
First, Leonard's condition is so extreme that there’s no way he’d be able to function alone in the outside world, let alone successfully go on a killing spree. He’d be freaking out every 15 minutes when he’s ‘reborn’ into the world.
Second, the condition is complicated by the fact that Leonard has also forgotten crucial information from before he lost his memory. It seems he made himself forget that his wife was never murdered, that she had diabetes, and presumably died by suicide the way Sammy Jankis’ wife went. How exactly does one forcibly forget something like that without being completely insane? Is this movie about a guy with retrograde amnesia or a total lunatic - can’t help feeling it would be stronger to focus on one or the other.
Third, the film goes for a ‘we all lie to ourselves to be happy’ message, but Leonard’s condition is so specific and rare that I struggle to relate to his experience. It feels like a bit of a reach to universalise the very particular experience of Leonard. Like Nolan wants to force a broader ‘theme’ onto a story that doesn’t really have one (I suppose it could be seen as a madman trying to justify his behaviour and convince himself he’s not severely mentally ill, but I don’t think that’s what Nolan was going for).
Fourth, like many Nolan films it’s all very clever but doesn’t hook me emotionally. As with Tenet, I’m sat there puzzled and with a minor headache but I don’t much care about what will happen or has happened. I don’t really care about the characters, and that’s partly because they’re all shits. Even the somewhat sympathetic protagonist turns out to be a serial killing psychopath. It’s got that moody adolescent boy quality, I prefer something like Interstellar which has a strong emotional hook, some vulnerability, and relationships of consequence.
Finally, Leonard keeps saying to people ‘I have this condition’… how does he know? He lost his ability to memorise before he was diagnosed. Surely every 15 minutes his experience would be having a violent fight with his wife’s rapists to ‘WTF! Where am I!? What’s going on!? Arrggghh!’ etc.
Memento is a great puzzle film but doesn’t quite deserve the gushing praise it seems to get. It’s a neat concept but overcomplicated and the storytelling is lacking.