In Memento, as I recall, the protagonist Leonard Shelby failed to create any new memories after the night he received a blow, from the man who 'raped and murdered' his wife. But he claims he doesn't have amnesia. He remembers everything what happened before that incident.

My question is, if he really remembers everything before that incident, why does he keep reminding himself of Sammy Jankis? He met him before the incident, so he is supposed to remember everything. But why does he decide to remember Sammy? Was it to convince himself about the fact that Sammy existed in real, not his fictional creation (which Teddy said after he killed Jimmy) or was it something else? Was it to keep reminded of the fact, that the killer has not been yet killed? Or was it to forget the fact that he is Sammy himself, who killed his wife by overdosing her with penicillin?

  • He just tries to remind himself of Sammy's case, which was similar to his now. Because some old case you once had, even if you didn't forget it, is not the first thing that comes to your mind when you wake up.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Sep 3, 2016 at 12:48
  • @NapoleonWilson But still it's a case before the incident..He is expected to remember it...I sound something real fishy is going on.
    – Aneek
    Sep 3, 2016 at 12:50
  • 1
    Sure he's expected to remember it, but why should he just think about something totally unrelated from years ago? He doesn't know right away that he should remember it, it's just some old case. How should he know that this is what he has to think of in order to understand his own state of mind right now?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Sep 3, 2016 at 12:51
  • @NapoleonWilson But see, Teddy is a good guy, that's no doubt. So, things he said after Jimmy was killed, were all of them lies? He said, "your wife was still alive. It was you who became Sammy Jankis and killed your own wife by overdosing her". So you see. Sammy is actually a creation of Leonard. And this is were things go complicated
    – Aneek
    Sep 3, 2016 at 12:55
  • 1
    Sure, I'm not saying that there's not more going on here, it's not a bad question. All I'm saying is that just because the Sammy incident was before his accident doesn't mean that he naturally thinks about Sammy all of the time and doesn't need a reminder.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Sep 3, 2016 at 12:56

2 Answers 2


Memento is one of those movies that seems to make no sense. None of the characters are trustworthy. We cannot trust the main character since their memory is completely unreliable. Besides Leonard, Teddy would be the most knowledgeable character. His memory is in tact, but he often lies to Leonard to manipulate him.

So there is a dilemma, the narration of the film is unreliable and contradictory. It is also shown out of order to further complicate matters. Fortunately, there is an Easter egg hidden in the DVD release which will allow you to watch it in chronological order. While this doesn't explain everything, we can more easily see how everything fits together.

Paul's answer is partially correct, but has some details wrong. According to Teddy, Leonard often lies to himself to make him feel better. Teddy states that Sammy Jenkis was in fact a real person, but Leonard has the story mixed up.

Leonard did investigate Sammy's case, and believed he was a fraud. Sammy was in a car accident where he suffered a head injury. Leonard believed he was lying because Sammy would act like he recognized him when he came to the door. What Leonard did not realize at the time is that Sammy faked responses to act more normal.

According to Leonard's memories of Sammy's case, he had a wife that was a diabetic. Sammy's wife would routinely test his memory by hiding objects all over the house, and then she would try to get him to remember where he had left them. The strange thing about his injury is that he still was able to do complex tasks such as give his wife insulin. Since he had learned how to do that before the injury, he could still perform it. Now, his wife had become very depressed for some reason (we will get to that in a bit). One day, she tried in vain to get him to remember. She would call him repeatedly and have him do the insulin injection. Since Sammy could reliably perform this task, he did it every time she asked him to. Eventually, he gave her so much insulin that she fatally overdosed. Sammy was never able to fully reconcile what he did.

According to Teddy, Sammy actually had no wife. Sammy was real, but the story Leonard tells about him was not true. It was Leonard's wife that was diabetic, and it was Leonard that unwittingly killed her. Leonard's wife was also very depressed. Not only was she depressed about her husband, she was also depressed because of the attack. Whether or not she committed suicide is completely up for debate, but it was clear that she was not happy.

The psychology behind Leonard's character is very complex. He was diagnosed with a form of amnesia called anterograde amnesia. People with this form of amnesia have difficulty creating new memories.

Anterograde amnesia is a loss of the ability to create new memories after the event that caused the amnesia, leading to a partial or complete inability to recall the recent past, while long-term memories from before the event remain intact.

He also appears to have some other undiagnosed symptoms. Leonard also shows signs of having an illness called prosopagnosia, commonly known as face blindness. Prosopagnosia can also be caused by a brain injury, and it is likely he is also suffering from a form of it called associative prosopagnosia.

Associative prosopagnosia has typically been used to describe cases of acquired prosopagnosia ... People with this form of the disorder may be able to see whether photos of people's faces are the same or different and derive the age and sex from a face (suggesting they can make sense of some face information) but may not be able to subsequently identify the person or provide any information about them such as their name, occupation, or when they were last encountered.

This fact was alluded to due to the fact that he could look at a picture, and compare it to someone, but he cannot associate that image with any of his memories.

The only truth was at the end when Teddy confessed to Leonard, and he told him what really happened.


Leonard is the classic unreliable narrator; and he even warns us of this when he tells us that memories cannot be trusted, that they can be distorted. Additonally, Leonard admits to having a specific condition that affects his memories. Therefore we need to be especially suspicious of anything Leonard says.

Leonard is Sammy Jankis. This is proved in the a couple of ways:

  • The repeated scenes where Leonard remembers 'pinching' his wife on the leg - in exactly the same spot where Sammy gives his 'wife' an insulin injection.
  • Throughout the film we have seen the same scene of Sammy sitting in the nursing home after his wife's suicide. At the end of the film when Teddy tries to force Leonard to remember we return to this scene, only this time, when a nurse walks past, we briefly see that it is Leonard. The scene quickly returns to it being Sammy. The inference is that Leonard has, just for a moment, remembered the truth. But then he shuts it down again.

Leonard also tells us that he has found a way to deal with his condition. Partly by faking reactions to people/events, but also by conditioning. This tells us that although Leonard cannot form new memories his damaged brain is, on some level able to process and retain new experiences.

All of Leonard's memories in the film prior to the 'incident' are his fiction. This is because the 'incident' is the wife's suicide. Leonard/Sammy suffered the brain injury prior to this; how is unknown. When the wife tricks him into giving her repeated doses of insulin, that repetition sticks. And, as Leonard explains, he can't ever process his grief (and guilt) over his wife's death because the memory of doing so doesn't stick. All he's stuck with the repeated act of killing her, over and over. So he constructs an elaborate fantasy to escape that knowledge. In the words of Teddy, he lies to himself to be happy.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .