Memento Ending Explained & Film Analysis

Memento: the meaning of the film, summary, explanation of the plot. Christopher Nolan is a unique director who has created many masterpiece puzzle pictures. His film Memento, the essence of which few people manage to catch from the first viewing, won the hearts of fans of complex psychological puzzles. The entanglement of the plot, the countdown, the unexpected denouement surprise and do not let you relax for almost two hours of the session. Not all viewers were able to understand the meaning of the thriller “Memento“. This article will help you figure it out.


Leonard Shelby (Lenny) is an insurance agent whose wife was raped and murdered by two criminals. Shelby shot one. The second hit the hero on the head, after which Lenny developed anterograde amnesia. It does not remember events that took place 15 minutes ago.

Leonard wants to find the second killer of his wife named John G. He writes down all the important facts in the case of the murder of his wife on pieces of paper, imprints in the form of tattoos on his body. In order not to forget people she knows, Shelby takes photos of them with captions.

Chronology of events

The events of the film Memento (color frames) are deliberately shown in reverse order in the form of fragments of memory:

  • Shelby kills Teddy.
  • Natalie, an acquaintance of Lenny’s, hands him an envelope with the name of the killer (Teddy).
  • The protagonist comes to Natalie’s house with a photo of Dodd’s tied up boyfriend. The girl explains that Leonard himself volunteered to help and decided to deal with the drug dealer who hit her. Heroes make love.
  • I woke up in an unfamiliar hotel room. There is a gun in the nightstand, a bound man in the closet. Teddy arrives. They release the stranger.
  • Shelby is in the hotel room. In the shower room, he notices the shadow of a creeping man. Lenny punches and ties up a stranger named Dodd, puts the man in a closet. Calls Teddy, familiar from the photo.
  • Leonard is on the run from drug dealer Dodd. From the note he learns the number of his room, breaks in to him. The room is empty.
  • Natalie comes home beaten – Lenny promises to take revenge on the offender (Dodd).
  • Natalie tells Leonard about her friend Jimmy. He went missing with a lot of money after meeting Teddy’s boyfriend. Now Natalie is bullied by drug dealer Dodd. The girl asks Lenny to kill Dodd. The guy refuses to kill for money. Then Natalie starts insulting Shelby and his wife. The main character hits the girl, she runs away from home.
  • Natalie, learning about Lenny’s illness, offers to stay with her for a few days.
  • In the bar, the main character meets the waitress Natalie. She asks about his illness, about Jimmy and Teddy.
  • Shelby at the tattoo parlor. Teddy arrives, advises him to hide.
  • Teddy gives Lenny an address to find his wife’s killer. The hero kills drug dealer Jimmy, puts on his clothes.
  • Teddy appears. Lenny learns from him that this is not the first John G he kills. The guy punished the real rapist a year ago.

alternative reality

Parallel to the main storyline, Shelby talks over the phone about an incident from her career (black and white footage). Sammy Jenkins, with a similar amnesia to Lenny, desired an insurance payout after an accident. The protagonist proved that Jenkins was mentally ill, not physically. Sammy’s wife, a diabetic, did not believe in the impossibility of curing her husband. She decided to experiment. Moving the clock back 15 minutes several times, the woman received three doses of insulin in a row from her husband, after which she died.

It is interesting! Stephen Tobolowsky, who played Sammy Jenkins, once experienced real-life amnesia after using an experimental painkiller.

After Jimmy’s murder, Leonard learns from Teddy that Sammy Jenkins had no wife and that his own wife had diabetes.

Plot Explanation

For many, the film Memento, the essence of its content remains a mystery to this day. What really happened in Shelby’s life?

The bitter truth of life

After the rape, Lenny’s wife survived. The hero kills the alleged second rapist during her lifetime. This is evidenced by Shelby’s tattoo under her chest, made before his wife’s death. Policeman Teddy helps the hero find the criminal.

Leonard’s wife dies of an insulin overdose, and the memories of Jenkins are the story of Lenny’s own life. So the subconscious mind protected the hero from the harsh reality. The moment of his wife’s death remained in my memory, but only as the story of one of the insurance agent’s clients.

Incredible! The shooting of the film Memento took 25 days.

The director tells the further story of the hero rather vaguely. After the death of his wife, for some time Lenny was in a psychiatric hospital. Then he continued to communicate with Teddy. The policeman used his illness to his advantage, to clear the world of “bad” guys. So Shelby kills drug dealer Jimmy, as well as other people with similar names.

After Jimmy’s death, Teddy tells his ward the truth. Lenny doesn’t want to kill anymore. The last John G for him will be Teddy himself. John G is the name of the police officer on the passport. Perhaps he was the real rapist of Shelby’s wife.

Leonard writes under the policeman’s photo, “Don’t trust him. He’s a liar” and tattoos Teddy’s car number on his thigh. With the help of Natalie, who also successfully used Lenny’s forgetfulness, the protagonist finds the owner of the car with the right number. Teddy’s antics come to an end.

The meaning of the film Memento (2000)

What did Christopher Nolan want to say with his thriller? What is the meaning of the movie Memento?

The main idea of ​​the picture is the value of memory as an integral part of the personality. People are so afraid of being left without arms or legs, but often they don’t even realize how hard it is for people to live without memory. They do not have a full-fledged past and future, there is only the present. Notes – this is the only thing with which they can every 15 minutes, again and again, restore their lives piece by piece.

It is the memory, according to the director, that determines the essence of a person. “The world does not disappear even if you close your eyes,” Lenny once said. In fact, what we remember is our world. The protagonist’s efforts to retain at least some memories confirm this: “We all need memories to know who we are.”

Also, the meaning of the film Memento is that a person needs a goal at every stage of life. Without it, the need for existence disappears. That’s why Leonard held on to the goal of finding his wife’s killer. Otherwise, what would he live for? After all, in his memory he will never keep anything else, except for the one who once entered the heart of a loved one.

What is the essence of the ending

The thriller ends with the momentary awareness of the main character of the whole truth of life. He understands how miserable his existence has become after the death of his beloved. At the end, Lenny decides to destroy his manipulator so that he no longer becomes a killer of people who were not involved in the death of his wife. “I’d rather be killed than murdered.”

Christopher Nolan’s thriller Memento, the meaning of which is the value of knowing about one’s own past, makes you stop and think for a moment. Who are you now?

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