Memento Ending Explained: Ending Memento Explained
While Nolan’s underhand Oscar-nominated script certainly treats Leonard’s anterograde amnesia for dramatic and at times comedic potential, experts in the medical community have praised “Memento” for how accurately he describes the disease. Caltech neuroscientist Christof Koch hailed the film as “the most accurate portrayal of different memory systems in popular media.”
People with the disease find themselves in the bewildering state of being unable to remember the recent past, while memories from before the event that caused the amnesia remain intact. This contrasts with retrograde amnesia, where patients are able to recall recent events while older memories fade.
In her article for The BMJ, “Memories Aren’t Made of This: Amnesia in Movies,” writes clinical neurologist Sallie Baxendale:
“Unlike most films of this genre, this amnesiac character [Leonard] retains identity, has little retrograde amnesia, and has many of the severe daily memory difficulties associated with the disease. The fragmented, almost mosaic-like quality of the film’s sequence of scenes also intelligently reflects the “perpetual present” nature of the syndrome. “
What all of this doesn’t really explain is why Nolan chooses to portray Leonard’s story and condition, at least halfway through the narrative, in reverse chronological order. It is presented as if the two things are related, but there is not much more than an elegant way to fool the viewer. As it is brilliantly done, we can give him a pass on this occasion …