Leonard Shelby remembers everything up until the fateful night when his wife was murdered, but the injury he sustained in the attack leaves him with no short-term memory. He tries to compensate by taking notes – some he gets tattooed to his body, others he jots down on Polaroid photos.
The entire movie runs backwards, starting with an ending and moving towards (?) the beginning. Many scenes are shot multiple times, from different starting points. Many scenes don't seem to make sense until we seen them the second time, from the beginning. For instance, at a bar he keeps returning to, when he drinks a beer the barmaid gives him an old man at the bar laughs as if it's the funniest thing he's ever seen. We're then shown the scene again. This time the bartender, wanting to show the old man that Leonard has no memory, gives him the beer to spit in, while Leonard is watching. She also spits in the beer. A few minutes later Leonard is given the beer, and takes a gulp.
It's not surprising that this film received rave reviews. Movie critics, who see hundreds of films a year, are often tired of the kinds of movies the average person likes. They're impressed by novel approaches, and this movie is almost all novelty. But the gimmick is tiresome and annoying to us regular mortals. You may need to take notes to keep track of what's going on. Or you may just want to skip the damn thing entirely.
© 2002 Dave Hitt