A man juggles searching for his wife’s murderer and keeping his short-term memory loss from being an obstacle.
Memento chronicles two separate stories of Leonard, an ex-insurance investigator who can no longer build new memories, as he attempts to find the murderer of his wife, which is the last thing he remembers. One story line moves forward in time while the other tells the story backwards revealing more each time.
Memento is a 2000 American neo-noir psychological thriller film written and directed by Christopher Nolan, and produced by Suzanne and Jennifer Todd. The film’s script was based on a pitch by Jonathan Nolan, who later wrote the story “Memento Mori” from the concept. It stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Joe Pantoliano.
Pearce stars as a man who, as a result of a past trauma, has anterograde amnesia (the inability to form new memories) and has short-term memory loss approximately every five minutes. He is searching for the persons who attacked him and killed his wife, using an intricate system of Polaroid photographs and tattoos to track information he cannot remember. Memento is presented as two different sequences of scenes interspersed during the film: a series in black-and-white that is shown chronologically, and a series of color sequences shown in reverse order (simulating for the audience the mental state of the protagonist). The two sequences meet at the end of the film, producing one complete and cohesive narrative.
Memento was a box office success. In the United States, during its opening weekend, it was released in only 11 theaters, but by week 11 it was distributed to more than 500 theaters. It grossed over $25 million in North America and $14 million in other countries, making the film’s total worldwide gross some $40 million as of August 2007. During its theatrical run, it did not place higher than eighth in the list of highest-grossing movies for a single weekend.
Memento was met with critical acclaim, earning a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Online film critic James Berardinelli gave the film four out of four stars, ranking it number one on his year-end Top Ten list and number sixty-three on his All-Time Top 100 films. In his review, he called it an “endlessly fascinating, wonderfully open-ended motion picture [that] will be remembered by many who see it as one of the best films of the year”. Berardinelli praised the film’s backwards narrative, saying that “what really distinguishes this film is its brilliant, innovative structure”, and noted that Guy Pearce gives an “astounding…tight, and thoroughly convincing performance”. In 2009, Berardinelli chose Memento as his #3 best movie of the decade. William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes that Memento is a “delicious one-time treat”, and emphasizes that director Christopher Nolan “not only makes Memento work as a non-linear puzzle film, but as a tense, atmospheric thriller”. Rob Blackwelder noted that “Nolan has a crackerjack command over the intricacies of this story. He makes every single element of the film a clue to the larger picture…as the story edges back toward the origins of [Leonard’s] quest”.