Hi, this is Barry and welcome to my site. After many requests for this timeless tale, I finally made time to put together the explanatory article for this amazing piece of work – Memento. This is Christopher Nolan’s second directorial full-length feature film (way before Inception and Interstellar) and one of the biggest cult classics that has a storytelling like no other. The story follows a man who has a condition of short-term memory loss and how he goes about finding who is responsible for it. The specialty of Memento is the film-direction, one part of the story is presented backwards. If you haven’t watched this film yet, drop everything and watch it NOW. Here’s a detailed plot analysis and the ending of the film Memento explained, spoilers ahead.
To find where to stream any movie or series based on your country, use This Is Barry’s Where To Watch. Oh, and if this article doesn’t answer all of your questions, drop me a comment or an FB chat message, and I’ll get you the answer. You can find other film explanations using the search option on top of the site.
Where To Watch?
To find where to stream any movie or series based on your country, use This Is Barry’s Where To Watch.
Oh, and if this article doesn’t answer all of your questions, drop me a comment or an FB chat message, and I’ll get you the answer. You can find other film explanations using the search option on top of the site.
Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:
Memento: Setting The Context
Before jumping in and explaining Memento, let’s take a quick look at the layout of Memento’s plot. One part of the story is in the forward direction. This is in black-and-white. The other part of the story is presented to us in the reverse direction. These parts are in colour. The climax of Memento is in the middle where the black-and-white meets the colour.
Assume there are 9 scenes in the film as below:
- Scenes 1 to 4 are in black-and-white.
- Scenes 6 to 9 are in colour.
The film is laid out as follows:
- First comes Scene 9, followed by Scene 1.
- The next is Scene 8, followed by Scene 2.
- So on, so forth, and eventually, Scene 5 is the climax of the film.
Why was Memento presented in reverse?
Simple. The lead character is suffering from short-term memory loss. By presenting Memento out-of-sequence, the audience is also left as dazed and confused as the lead character. The audience, too, has no clue what happened just moments before. This kind of non-linear film-execution has come to be called Nolan-Time.
The first scene of Memento is backwards. A photograph (from a Polaroid camera) fades to white. A guy gains his dropped gun. A dead guy becomes alive and screams NO backwards. This is the last scene of the story.
While the awesomeness of Memento’s plot is this innovative non-linear storytelling, I’m going to walk through the plot linearly to keep things simple. Let’s start from the top.
Memento Explained (Linear Plot Explanation)
Who is Lenny?
Lenny, Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), is an insurance investigator. Lenny is married and is in love with his wife. Nothing more is revealed about his early life other than this.
Who is Sammy Jankis?
Samuel R. Jankis (Sammy, played by Stephen Tobolowsky) was one of the first cases in Lenny’s Insurance Investigation. A strange case. Sammy and his wife were in a car accident. Ever since, Sammy has not been able to build any new memories. Sammy has the case of short-term memory loss. Yes, Lenny, at a point when he’s all fine, is investigating a person who has short-term memory loss. Lenny being good at his job wants to nullify the insurance claim.
Lenny notices that Sammy is able to do complex things as long as he has learnt to do them before the accident. Eg: Lenny is able to give his wife insulin shots for her diabetic condition. He learnt to give her shots much before the accident. Though doctors confirm that Sammy’s condition is legit, Lenny feels that Sammy has this slight look of recognition every time they meet. Lenny thinks Sammy is a bad actor and he orders more tests.
Lenny, in his research, lands on “Learning by Conditioning”. This is a completely different part of the brain from the short-term memory, e.g.: Getting better at riding a cycle. So doctors test Sammy’s response to conditioning. Sammy is made to pick up 3 out of a bunch of objects. Some of the objects are electrified. They’d give him a small shock. They kept repeating the test always with the same objects electrified. The point was to see if Sammy could learn to avoid the electrified objects, not by memory, but by instinct.
They keep testing Sammy for months always with the same objects carrying the electrical charge. Even with total short-term memory loss, Sammy should have learned to instinctively stop picking up the electrified objects. All the previous cases responded to conditioning but Sammy didn’t respond at all. It was enough to suggest that his condition was psychological, not physical. They turn down his claim on the grounds that he wasn’t covered for mental illness. His wife gets stuck with the bills, and Lenny gets a big promotion.
Sammy’s wife gets crippled by the cost of supporting him. She thinks that if it’s not a physical problem, he should just snap out of it. Lenny never says Sammy was faking it. It got to the point where she’d get Sammy to hide food all around the house. Then she’d stop feeding him to see if his hunger would make him remember where he’d hidden the food. She goes to meet Lenny. She wants to know if her old Sammy will ever return or not. Lenny says that Sammy is technically capable of making new memories. So she goes back home and gives Sammy his ultimate test. She keeps rolling the clock back asks Sammy to give her her insulin shots. She thinks she can use his love for her to call his bluff. Unfortunately, Sammy just keeps injecting her. She goes into a coma and never recovers.
Lenny learns that he was wrong about Sammy. It wasn’t recognition he saw in his eyes, it’s just that Sammy had learnt to fake it, to fit in. He was wrong about Sammy’s wife, she didn’t want the money, she simply wanted answers.
Memento: The Incident
In an unrelated event, one night, Lenny’s house is attacked. We don’t know a lot of information on this attack, we get to see glimpses of it. Lenny is asleep. Something wakes him up. He feels and realizes that his wife’s side of the bed is cold. She’s obviously been out of bed for a while. When Lenny suspects a break-in, he equips himself with a gun and enters the bathroom where he sees a man choking his wife to death in a plastic bag. He shoots this man dead. But then gets attacks from behind and hits his head on the mirror and falls to the ground bleeding as he watches his wife breath her last breath.
This incident causes Lenny to develop a condition of short-term memory loss. The last thing he does remember is the attack from behind. However, the cops don’t believe Lenny. They feel that there was only one assaulter and he was shot dead in self-defense. The cops find a sap in the dead man’s hand that has Lenny’s blood. They also find a getaway car. As far as the cops are concerned, the case is closed because the assaulter is dead.
Lenny remembers getting hit from behind after he shoots the first guy. Now he’s left with the condition of short-term memory loss and his last memory is the face of his wife, dying. Revenge is all that is in his mind. But Lenny has also learnt from Sammy’s mistakes. Sammy used to just write himself a ton of notes. But then he would eventually get them mixed up. Lenny knows the need to have a system in place – his tattoos, his photographs and his file of facts and he’s learnt to trust his own handwriting, a jacket with many pockets – one pocket for a specific thing. Conditioning didn’t work for Sammy, so he became helpless. But it works for Lenny. Habit and routine make his life possible.
Memento: Teddy and Lenny
Over time, Lenny identifies that the name of the surviving assaulter was John G. So he tattoos that on his chest. All of the important details are tattooed on his body. Teddy (Joe Pantoliano), a cop, is assigned Lenny’s case. Teddy’s real name is John Edward Gammell. Now Teddy is not a killer or a bad guy. He is a dirty cop who operates undercover under the name of “Teddy”. He busts drug deals and pockets some of the money. When he’s handed Lenny’s case, he takes pity on Lenny and helps him find John G. Lenny kills John G and gets his revenge. He avenges his wife’s death. But thanks to short-term memory loss he forgets that he’s taken revenge. Teddy takes a picture of Lenny after he’s taken his revenge. Because Lenny can’t feel time, he can’t heal. Given he’s forgotten that he’s taken his revenge, he can’t carry on with life. He still continues to feel the need for revenge.
Teddy begins using Lenny to get his dirty work done for him. He gets Lenny to take out many of the guys by giving him fake clues. Teddy has been using Lenny for over a year this way now. Teddy gives out pieces of a puzzle that will lead Lenny to think that Teddy’s target is John G. Once Lenny takes the target out, Teddy moves to his next target. One such target is a drug dealer by the name Jimmy. Teddy needs Jimmy killed. Hence he’s been giving Lenny clues that point to Jimmy.
Lenny’s checked into a motel – The Discount Inn. This is where Memento begins (after the reverse sequence of the gunshot). He wakes up in his room wondering where he is, wondering how long he’s been there, weeks or months? Can’t say. It’s just an anonymous room.
Checks the draws, finds a bible. He sees “Remember Sammy Jankis” tattooed on him. That’s this cue for knowing that he too has a short-term memory loss issue. He recalls his system of operation and the tattoos. Then the phone rings.
We are not told who the caller is. We can assume that it is Teddy. Lenny begins talking about Sammy on the call. He goes through the entire story. After that Teddy gives Lenny a clue that there were drugs in the car that was found outside his apartment after his assault. The access to this quantity of drugs meant that John G was a dealer. Lenny tattoos “DRUG DEALER” on himself. Suddenly Lenny uncovers another tattoo on him that reads “NEVER ANSWER THE PHONE”. Lenny realizes that he’s been babbling on to someone without even checking who. Teddy hangs up.
The phone rings again, Lenny cuts it. He calls the front desk (Burt) and tells him to not forward any calls. An envelope slides in. Lenny opens the envelope and there is a picture of him with a smile on his face with the current tattoos on him. This is the pic that Teddy claims to have taken after Lenny killed the real John G who murdered his wife. Lenny has forgotten this moment though. The envelope also has a note that reads “Take My Call”.
There is a knock on the door. Lenny opens. It’s Burt from Front Desk. He tells Lenny that there is someone on the line who claims to be a cop. Lenny picks up the phone. It’s teddy. Lenny begins conversation again about Sammy. Completes his story. Teddy tells Lenny about Jimmy who deals drugs out of a bar where his girlfriend works. He also tells that Jimmy will be coming to the meeting point alone. Lenny is all set to go kill Jimmy because he thinks he’s “the” John G.
Lenny packs up from the room and goes down to meet Teddy. He greets Lenny as Officer Gammell. Lenny takes a pic of him and is about to write Gammell on it. Teddy asks Lenny to write “Teddy” because he’s undercover.
Who is Jimmy Grants in Memento?
Jimmy has nothing to do with Lenny’s wife’s murder. He’s just a low life who deals drugs. Teddy is a cop who’s trying to bust Jimmy for the drug dealing. However, Teddy is trying to make it look like Jimmy was taken out by a rival gang. Teddy’s told Jimmy to come to a location with money in exchange for drugs. Teddy’s sending Lenny to that location convincing him that Jimmy is John G, the murderer of Lenny’s wife. Once Lenny kills Jimmy, Teddy plans on taking Jimmy’s money. After this, he plans on using Lenny to take out other targets of his.
Lenny goes to the location. Jimmy goes to the location. Teddy assaults and chokes Jimmy. Jimmy is nearly dead, Lenny changes into Jimmy’s suit. He takes a photo. As the photo develops, the scene turns from black-and-white to colour. This transition also indicates that we are in the middle scene and hence the climax of Memento. Jimmy is almost dead. Lenny takes Jimmy to the basement to finish the job. Just then Jimmy says “Sammy”. Lenny drops Jimmy surprised that he knew about Sammy. Lenny suspects that if Jimmy knows about Sammy, then it’s someone who Lenny might have met in a completely different circumstance. That Jimmy may have nothing to do with his wife’s murder.
Teddy arrives at the scene. Lenny looks through his photos and finds Teddy. Lenny goes out acting like he doesn’t know Teddy. Lenny tells him that there is a man hurt inside. He also asks Teddy if he knows him. Teddy says “No. Don’t worry. I’m a cop”. Teddy comes into the scene acting like he doesn’t know what’s going on. Just as he bends over to check on Jimmy, who’s dead by now, Lenny hits Teddy from behind. Lenny is on to Teddy and asks him who Jimmy was. Teddy tries to sell that Jimmy was John G. Lenny asks why Jimmy had 200,000 dollars on him. Teddy says it was a drug bust and that Jimmy was John. Teddy is not able to lie convincingly.
Memento: The Climax
Teddy also tries to trick Lenny into thinking that Lenny was indeed Sammy. Lenny was the guy with the short-term memory issues who overdosed his wife with insulin. Teddy says that Lenny lies to himself to be happy. He says that Lenny’s wife survived the assault but eventually was unable to handle Lenny’s situation. Teddy says that Lenny has conditioned his mind with an elaborate lie so that he can hunt down a fictional John G. So that he doesn’t have to live with the guilt of being responsible for his wife’s death. Teddy tries to twist things around by saying Lenny’s wife was diabetic. Why is Teddy lying to Lenny? Well, Lenny just busted Teddy for getting him to do the dirty work of killing Jimmy. Teddy is saying anything he can to confuse Lenny so that he can exit the situation. Teddy knows that he just needs to confuse Lenny long enough to make him forget about Jimmy.
Lenny denies that his wife was diabetic. He has a memory of pinching his wife which he, for a second, thinks may have been the prick of an injection needle. But soon enough he recollects the actual event where Lenny is only pinching his wife. Lenny knows Teddy is lying. Teddy asks him to enjoy his revenge. Lenny says that Jimmy is not the guy. Teddy says he is going to forget it anyway. Lenny says that he will remember it and that he will know that he’s completed taking revenge. That somehow it will be different.
Then Teddy finally tells Lenny that it’s been a year since he helped Lenny find the actual John G and kill him. Lenny asks who John G was and why he attacked him and his wife. Teddy says that John G was just some low life and there was no conspiracy, just bad luck. The two guys who attacked were just some junkies too strung out to realize his wife didn’t live alone. Teddy tells Lenny that when he killed John G, he was so convinced Lenny would remember but it didn’t stick. He adds that he took that picture of him, the happy picture. Teddy also accuses of Lenny pulling out 12 pages from a full police report that he’d given him. He says that Lenny removed 12 pages to create a puzzle that he couldn’t solve. Now, this may or may not be true. It’s quite possible that Teddy pulled out the 12 pages so that he could continue using Lenny. But it is also possible that Lenny did it to keep going because he can’t feel the revenge. He can’t remember avenging the death of his wife. Either way, Lenny has just been a hitman for Teddy for a year without any memory of it.
Teddy goes on to make the biggest mistake of his life. In his frustration, he tells Lenny that there are countless John Gs, and that he too is a John Gammell (a John G). Lenny tosses Teddy’s car keys into the bushes. Teddy starts scurrying for it. Lenny doesn’t want to forget what Teddy has made him do. Lenny feels that if Teddy thinks it’s all only about puzzle solving, another John G to look for, then Teddy is a John G. He thinks Teddy can be his John G. He thinks “Do I lie to myself to be happy? In your case, Teddy, Yes, I will”. He looks at Teddy’s car’s number plate and writes it down as a clue that he needs to tattoo on him. On Teddy’s photo, he also writes “Don’t believe his lies“.
This is the climax of Memento. The irony is that Teddy himself gets marked as a false clue. A false clue that Lenny leaves himself. This moment here leads up to Teddy getting shot (which is the first scene of Memento). After this, Lenny leaves in Jimmy’s car and stops at a tattoo centre. The film ends here.
But since we are doing a linear walkthrough, the story continues. The following appears in colour in the movie.
Lenny is getting Teddy’s car’s number plate tattooed on him. “Fact six: Car license SG137IU.” Teddy comes in because he sees the Jag (Jimmy’s car outside). He is worried that Lenny is prancing about with Jimmy’s car and clothes. He wants Lenny to change, stash the car and get a new identity. He tries telling Lenny that there is an out-of-town cop who has been calling Lenny in the room. Another lie. He gives Lenny some new clothes. Lenny goes to change and finds a coaster in his pocket that reads “Come by after. Natalie. Ferdy’s Bar”. He also finds a photo of Teddy which reads “Don’t believe his lies”. So Lenny escapes from the back window and heads to the bar.
Who is Natalie?
Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss) is Jimmy’s girlfriend. She is the one who works at the bar that Jimmy deals out of. She uses the coasters to write notes and get messages passed around to get drug deals going. There is not much back-story for Natalie. She is a survivor and does what she needs to do to keep her nose above the water.
As Lenny’s parking at the bar, Natalie comes to say hi to Jimmy because she recognizes the car. She is surprised to find Lenny instead. Lenny is blissfully ignorant about what he’s done and whose car he’s come in. All he knows is that he found a coaster in “his pocket”. Lenny goes in and talks with Natalie saying he found the coaster. She knows of him as the “memory guy” from what Jimmy has told her before. Lenny tells her about his condition and she doesn’t really believe him. All she’s seeing is a man in Jimmy’s suit. She passes around a beer into which she makes her customers spit. She asks Lenny to spit into it and she does so too. She waits a while.
She goes to Lenny’s table and serves him the spit beer. She’s testing him. Lenny drinks up happily. She confirms that he does have a condition. He tells Natalie that the last thing he remembers is his wife dying. She changes his beer.
They head back to her place. She tells him that he can crash on her couch. Lenny tells her the story of his wife and why the cops aren’t looking for a killer. She asks Lenny to be comfortable at home and leaves. He takes a photo of her and writes her name on it.
Natalie comes right back telling Lenny that someone by the name of Dodd has come looking for the money Jimmy had. She quickly takes all the pens in the house and puts it in her bag. Lenny doesn’t remember that the money is in the trunk of the car. She asks Lenny to get rid of Dodd for her. He refuses. She taunts him. She verbally abuses his wife. She tells Lenny that she’s taken away all the pens and that there is no way for him to remember what she’s telling him. Eventually, Lenny hits Natalie. She gets up and leaves. Lenny desperately looks for a pen to note down what has just happened. He knows that Natalie is about to use him and he needs to write this down to prevent that. But he can’t find a pen. Natalie waits in the car for a while. Lenny forgets.
She comes right back into the house saying Dodd beat the shit out of her. She lies to Lenny saying that he asked her to go reason with Dodd. That Dodd hit her and threatened her to have all the cash ready the next day. Lenny doesn’t remember that he’s the one that hit just Natalie. He gets her to write down information about Dodd and goes out to beat him up.
Teddy’s in the car waiting for Lenny. Teddy tells him about how dangerous Natalie is. He tells Lenny how she’s most likely already using him. Teddy’s had a close eye on these people, he knows how they work. He knows that his name has been taken but he still remains undercover. He wants it to stay that way. He urges Lenny to write “Do not trust her” on Natalie’s photo. Lenny does. Teddy still wants Lenny to leave town because of Jimmy’s car and clothes. Teddy leaves. Lenny looks at Teddy’s photo which reads “Don’t believe his lies” so he strikes out “Do not trust her” from Natalie’s photo.
Lenny checks in again to the Discount Inn. He sets up another room with all the pics and clues. Lenny calls an Escort service and hires a girl. He gives some of his wife’s belongings to the girl and asks her to put them around the room like they are hers. She’s obviously confused but thinks it’s some kinky business and complies. He instructs the girl to get up in the night after he has fallen asleep to go into the bathroom and shut the door. She does so.
Lenny wakes up. He believes he’s at his home. He calls out to his wife. She doesn’t answer. He walks up to the bathroom and opens the door. The escort girl is sitting there. He snaps back into the current reality. He asks her to leave. Lenny takes the car and drives out. He creates a fire and burns his wife’s belongings. He feels he may have burnt truckloads of her stuff but he can’t remember to forget her. He is doing everything he can to wake up and know that his wife has been dead and gone for a long time. He wants to move on.
It’s dawn, Lenny gets into his car and leaves. Dodd happens to be chasing Lenny because his thinks it’s Jimmy in the car. Lenny sees that Dodd has a gun and drives away but gets cornered. Dodd comes to the car and enters it, Lenny leaves and makes a run for it. Dodd runs after him.
As Lenny’s running, he begins to forget why he’s been running. He notices Dodd running and thinks he’s following Dodd. Once Dodd begins shooting at Lenny, he realizes that he’s the one being chased. Lenny circles back to the car, gets in, and drives away.
Lenny pulls out the note he has on Dodd (written by Natalie), he has his address. He decides to get the jump on Dodd and heads to his place. In the process of breaking in, he breaks open and knocks a guy down. Then realizes it’s the wrong door number. Heads to the right door and knocks on it waiting for Dodd to appear. No one does, the door is open, Lenny enters. He picks up a bottle and goes into the bathroom and waits.
The wait is long, Lenny forgets why he’s there. Looks to the bottle and wonders why it’s in his hands. Lenny, assuming that he’s at his place, goes on to take a shower. He hears the door close. It’s Dodd getting back. Lenny attacks him. Tapes his mouth shut, ties him, and leaves him in the closet. Lenny takes a picture of him and writes Dodd on it. He calls Teddy and tells him where he is. He sleeps.
He wakes up with no clue of where he is. Opens the draw to see a gun. Then he finds Dodd. Teddy arrives and knocks. Lenny opens. He shows Teddy a beat-up Dodd. Teddy asks if it a John G. Lenny is not sure, says he fell asleep before writing it down. Lenny asks Dodd who did that to him. Dodd, confused, says “you did”. They untie Dodd, clean him up and take him down at gunpoint. They drive him out and let him go warning that they will kill him the next time. Lenny goes to Natalie’s to find out what that was about.
Natalie explains that Dodd has nothing to do with Lenny’s investigation. She tells him that he offered to help when he saw what “Dodd” had done to her face. Lenny struggles to understand why he would just decide to help Natalie on her word. He thinks someone is messing with him getting him to kill the wrong guy. Well, Natalie is. She confirms if Lenny killed Dodd and he says he didn’t. She tells Lenny that he decided to help her. She notices the Tattoos on him and Natalie understands the pain that Lenny goes through every moment of his waking life. Natalie says that she lost Jimmy too. She obviously has no clue that Lenny killed Jimmy, but then again neither does Lenny. She knows Jimmy went to meet Teddy and never came back. She doesn’t know who Teddy is. Lenny doesn’t recollect Teddy’s name as well because he needs to look into the photos to do that, but he doesn’t. They sleep. Lenny talks about how he can never heal because he can never feel the passage of time. The wound of his dead wife is constantly fresh. He gets up and goes to the next room, takes out Natalie’s picture and writes “She has also lost someone. She will help you out of pity”. Goes back to sleep.
He wakes up next morning. He can’t remember who he’s with or where he is. He looks at the photos. Natalie tells him that she’s going to help him with the number plate of John G. Lenny is clueless, he’s forgotten. She reminds him that it is tattooed on his thigh. Lenny thanks her. She asks him if he’s going to remember her the next time they meet. He says no. She kisses him and says that she thinks he will. He’s about to leave. Natalie tells him that he’s wearing her shirt and she’d like it back.
Outside, Teddy meets Lenny and asks if he has found John G yet. He simply needs Lenny to leave town as it’s getting dangerous for Teddy. He tries to tell Lenny that someone is trying to set him up to kill the wrong person. Teddy doesn’t know he’s the next mark, he’s just trying to get out of the Jimmy fix. Lenny explains how facts are more important that memory and would better rely upon his notes. He heads to the Discount Inn and says that he’s misplaced his keys. Burt takes him to his room. Burt is told by his boss to check him into two rooms. Burt and his boss know of Lenny’s condition so they use that to make a few extra bucks. Once Burt takes Lenny to his room he realizes that he’s got him to the wrong room. Burt confesses to Lenny about the double rooms. Just then, Lenny realizes that he has a meet with Natalie and he hurries out.
He goes to the diner. He walks past Natalie. She stops him. Natalie is visually irritated that Lenny wasn’t able to remember her. She eventually tells him that she has the information. She has traced the number plate to a guy called John Edward Gammell. She doesn’t know that this guy is Teddy. Lenny doesn’t check his photos so he doesn’t talk of Teddy either. Natalie has grown to like Lenny for the love he displays for his dead wife. She also adds an address where he can take this John Gammell and finish the job. It’s the same address where Lenny kills Jimmy. Obviously, he can’t remember. Natalie tells him that it is isolated and is perfect for the kill. The perfect coincidence – Teddy used Lenny to kill off Jimmy at a secluded place and now Natalie is unknowingly getting her revenge on Teddy at the very same place but none of them realize this. Natalie returns the keys to his room and bids him good luck.
Lenny heads back to his room. He pulls the license plate information. Correlates that John Edward Gammell and Teddy are the same guy. He also reads the note about not trusting his lies. He calls Teddy arranges for a meeting. He looks at his tattoos and writes on Teddy’s picture – “He is the one. Kill him”.
Lenny goes down and meets Burt. He starts talking to Burt like he’s never met him. Burt just finds it hard to believe his condition. He shows Burt Teddy’s pic. Burt says he’s seen the two together quite a few time and thinks they are friends. Teddy arrives.
Memento: Ending Explained
Lenny is all set to kill Teddy. He takes Teddy to the address that Natalie has given him. Teddy recognizes it and asks why they need to go there. Lenny says he has a lead on something. Teddy has no clue he’s going to die. When they get there Lenny sees a car (the one he comes in to kill Jimmy). Teddy says that the car has been standing there for years. Lenny looks at the tracks and says that it is fresh. Teddy just wants to get out of there so is conjuring up lies. Lenny goes in and sees the photos. He finds Teddy’s which reads “He’s the one. Kill him”. Lenny moves and attacks Teddy. In his desperation, Teddy tells Lenny that they should go to the basement to find out more about who Lenny has become. Jimmy’s dead body would still be there. Lenny lowers his gun, Teddy tries to run. Lenny shoots Teddy.
Conclusion of Memento
This takes us back to the very first scene where the bullet reverses its way back into Lenny’s gun. The story ends here. Teddy didn’t have anything to do with Lenny’s wife’s murder. But he played a dangerous game with a person who can’t make new memories. Teddy ends up paying a price for using a person like Lenny. Where Lenny goes after this, we don’t know. He still has Natalie to get back to. But it is a fact that his condition is going to make people use him and take advantage. Lenny is a survivor and will continue to survive. He does take a pic of dead Teddy but will he keep it to tell himself that he took revenge, we don’t know.
Memento Ending Explained: Alternate Theory – is Lenny actually Sammy?
There is an alternate angle to explain Memento, the story, the characters, and the explanation of the ending. The narrative for the story and how the events happened, come from a man who’s got issues making new memories. Even for regular people, time can alter the details of a memory in one’s head based on what they choose to believe. This is true with Lenny too. He’s possibly making stuff up as he goes (like when he decides Teddy is going to his John G). The bottom line is that the narrative is unreliable. Which also means that many events in Memento may or may not have happened. Now, that said, Teddy is not a clean guy either. He’s been manipulating and using Lenny to do his dirty work for him. We can’t rely on Teddy for the truth about the events in Memento. For example, his version of reality where Lenny is actually Sammy who ended up killing his wife, can’t be trusted either.
People with this mental condition cannot make new memories – real or imaginary. For Lenny to know of Sammy and his condition, the events need to have happened before Lenny’s head injury. Even if Lenny was Sammy and he killed his wife, that happened post the injury, so Lenny will have no such memory. To feel guilt enough to project his actions on to a conjured up person, Sammy, Lenny needs to remember his actions else there is no guilt.
Then what can we then trust? Well, this is the reason I was hesitating to put this alternate conclusion in this article as it is not satisfactory. We can’t trust anything as the movie Memento is extremely open-ended, other than that one photo of a happy Lenny with tattoos showing that he might have taken his revenge. We can only subscribe to any one of the realities that we see fit, choose to believe it, and make peace with the film.
Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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