Leonard Shelby

Created by Jonathan and Christopher Nolan

Any of you guys seen Memento yet? It's a truly mind-blowing film that should get as much exposure as possible.

The main character is (or at least was) a P.I. (well, actually, an insurance investigator). But I think this qualifies him for inclusion on this site, even though the "investigation" he is involved in throughout the film is a personal vendetta.

Guy Pearce plays LEONARD SHELBY, a former insurance investigator in the San Francisco/Bay Area, searching for his wife's killer. Unfortunately, Shelby (who sustained a serious head injury during the fatal attack on his wiie) suffers from a rare form of amnesia which renders him incapable of retaining memories on a short term basis. Any bit of information he learns since his injury must be recorded or will be quickly forgotten.

As a result,  he must use an elaborate system of  notes, photographs and even tatoos to keep everything straight. As you can imagine, this makes his "investigation" so much more difficult.

Along the way, he meets Teddy and Natalie (played by Joe Pantliano and Carrie Anne-Moss) two mysterious, but seemingly helpful people who may or may not be as freindly and helpful to Shelby as they appear.

The plot itself sounds like a decent low budget mystery. But what makes this movie stand out is the construction of the screenplay.

Not to give too much away, but writer-director Christopher Nolan tells the story in reverse chronological order: the ending of the film is shown at the begining and it proceeds backwards from there. As a result, the audience is just as confused and uneasy about what is going on as Shelby is. You only find out the whole story of how he ended up in the mess he was in during the last ten minutes. And even then you aren't sure what you just saw were the objective facts or a fractured approximation cooked up in Shelby's mind. I've seen this movie twice and my brain still aches when I try to figure it all out.

Some critics dismissed this film as gimmicky. But it's a hell of a gimmick. Like Sleuth, Memento is a  strange puzzle of a film that requires real thought to even get a glimmering of what just happened.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Christopher Nolan's dazzling, creative screenplay was inspired and based on a short story, "Memento Mori," by his brother Jonathan. In the story, Earl (Leonard in the film), whose occupation is never specified, apparently suffering from short-term memory loss, uses notes and tattoos to hunt down his wife's killer.


  • MEMENTO...Buy the video...Buy the DVD...Buy the Blu-Ray...Watch it now!
    (2001, I Remember Productions/Newmarket Capital Group/Team Todd)
    116 minutes
    Colour/Black and white
    Tagline: Some memories are best forgotten
    Based on the short story "Memento Mori" by Jonathan Nolan
    Screenplay by Christopher Nolan 
    Directed by Christopher Nolan 
    Executive producers: Christopher Ball, Aaron Ryder, William Tyrer
    Co-producer: Elaine Dysinger
    Associate producer: Emma Thomas  
    Producers: Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd
    Original music by David Julyan
    Starring Guy Pearce as LEONARD SHELBY
    Also starring Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Boone Junior, Stephen Tobolowsky, Jorja Fox, Harriet Sansom Harris, Callum Keith Rennie, Larry Holden, Jimmy Grantz , Russ Fega, Thomas Lennon, Kimberly Campbell, Marianne Muellerleile


  • "Memento Mori" (March 2001, Esquire, by Jonathan Nolan)


Read Jonathan Nolan's original short story, which inspired the film.

Respectfully submitted by Bryan English.

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