This constantly scathing and scornful neo-noir about a man living in perpetual sadness is teeming with complexity, brilliance, and heartbreaking material. Consisting of two separate segments, one told chronologically in black and white, the other told in full colour and reverse. “Memento” has discouraged its fair share of viewers, but has astounded even more. Directed by filmmaking heavyweight Christopher Nolan and adapted from his brother Jonathan’s short story entitled “Memento Mori.” This is the Nolan’s first full-length feature together and roots their already exceedingly prosperous careers. “Memento” toys with its audience, tinkers with the mind and morals of each viewer. While everything may not be essentially what it seems. Ironically, this falsification is the films only truth and it is played out with the utmost effectiveness.
Leonard Shelby (Pearce) has short term memory loss resulting from an injury he sustained attempting to prevent his wife from being murdered. He remembers everything up until the point of the injury, after that, all that he experiences remains only briefly in his mind afterwords. Before the incident, Leonard was an insurance claims investigator and consistently remembers an encounter with a man named Sammy Jankis. Leonard has tattoos all over his body to help him remember the facts about the perp who murdered his wife and escaped justice. Leonard has made it his life mission to find his wife’s killer and submit him to his own form of redemption.
While “Memento” is a demanding psychological thriller that takes quite the toll mentally. What makes this mysterious Nolan tale a cut-above is its disheartening and emotional content that is equally as exhausting. Driven by loss, violence, and vengeance. “Memento” although primed by retribution, is fuelled with love and ignited by an honest rage, a deadly, yet sympathetic combination. Although all of this is a lot to absorb, process, and conclude. Nolan does an excellent job leading the audience through this intricate memory, making it as effortless and transient as possible. Like most of life, “Memento” is exquisite proof that everything isn’t always cut and dry. That being said, in this context, the circumstance is tiptoeing around the grey area. Regardless, this experience is unlike any other you’ve encountered watching a film. It is impossible to simply watch “Memento,” you either invest completely, or not at all.
“Memento” and its execution is completely entrusted to Nolan. However, the cast is charged with as difficult a task, arguably even more so. Due to Leonard’s condition, from the get go the audience is full of skepticism towards each character and their motives. The ensemble’s job is to convince the viewer that they’re genuine. Not such an easy feat when they only have a few minutes to work with at any given time because of the way the film is structured. Nonetheless, “Memento” triumphs and a large part of that success derives from the cast, which features: Guy Pearce, Carie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano.
Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano give absolutely outstanding performances in support of Guy Pearce. Which really magnifies the fact that other than “Memento” and the “Matrix” trilogy, Moss and Pantoliano don’t garner enough screen time in high-profile features, which is a shame considering how effective they are. As for Guy Pearce, who I feel is also incredibly underrated, just not on the same scale as Moss and Pantoliano, really steals the show, as he should. Pearce does a terrific job highlighting the dark humour hidden amongst his character. In addition to fully entrancing the viewer with his melancholic, empathetic, and unstable tendencies. In summary, Memento is solid all the way through, on paper and both behind and in front of the camera.
“Memento” is essentially the film that made me the cinephile I am today. It is one of my all-time favourites and I don’t think that will ever change. “Memento” is disturbing, heartfelt, and immensely hypnotic. Directed with the utmost precision and acted immaculately, “Memento” is a must see.
“Memento” 9.5 out of 10.