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“Memento” (2001) dir. Christopher Nolan – Available on Kanopy to stream!
Many have most likely either heard of director/screenwriter Christopher Nolan before or at one point unknowingly seen one of his many highly acclaimed films such as the “Dark Knight Trilogy,” “Inception” or “Dunkirk.” “Dunkirk” has recently garnered Nolan directorial and best picture nominations for the 2018 Oscars this March.
Lesser known are his early movies. “Memento,” the fifth film with Nolan at the helm, awarded him his first Oscar nomination for his screenplay. Despite this, the film has largely gone under the radar for viewers not a part of the arthouse or Sundance circuit. “Memento” exhibits early-on many of the key stylistic choices that make Nolan’s films so distinctive. Confusing, sometimes hard to track plotlines, non-chronological order and the iconic anti-hero to name a few.
“Memento” follows Lenny (played incredibly by Guy Pearce), who as a result of an accident, loses the ability to form new memories. Specifically, he loses his memory every 15 minutes. This happens to make his main goal – to hunt down the man who raped and killed his wife – marginally more difficult. Extreme close ups of his many tattooed phrases and facts, polaroids with handwritten notes and packed file folders bound together with rubber-bands reveal Lenny’s meticulous system of keeping track. However, this paired with his memory problem leave him vulnerable to malintended “friends” and enemies.
The film begins at the end of the story and works both backwards and forwards over the course of the film. Nolan plays with time throughout the film, leaving even this writer at times confused. But we are supposed to be. While Lenny’s problem isn’t time related, the non-chronological order of the film requires us to recall scenes that happened many scenes ago, and leave us wondering whose side everyone is on, much like the central character.
Even more similar to Nolan’s other films are the plot twists. Nolan waits until the end to drop the bomb. And it is a bomb, indeed. This single plot twist flips the whole film on its head, leaving the audience to question every single choice that every single character has made and the motives behind them all. Is anybody really who they say they are?