Great Movie Amnesiacs

We count down some of the best forgetful characters on the big screen…

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP is released in Irish cinemas this week, and stars Nicole Kidman as Christine; a woman who developed anterograde amnesia after a violent attack 10 years previously. Christine forgets everything from her day when she goes to sleep, and wakes every day without knowing where she is, and believing she is still in her 20s. With this in mind, decided to take a look back at the great forgetful movie characters of the past.


Before Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore subjected us to BLENDED, and after they proved they have on-screen chemistry in THE WEDDING SINGER, they brought us 50 FIRST DATES; the story of Lucy, a young woman who is afflicted with the fictional Goldfield Syndrome, which presents like anterograde amnesia.
Henry (Sandler) falls for Lucy and finds himself buying into the lie that Lucy’s father and brother have created for her; that every day is October 13th 2002.
50 FIRST DATES may suffer through some OTT story elements and a familiar penchant for gross-out humour, but Lucy is a rather endearing character, and the fact that she sings The Beach Boys’ Wouldn’t It Be Nice on the days that she meets Henry is a sweet touch.

Leonard – MEMENTO

Imagine knowing that someone has killed a person you love, and trying to hunt them down. Now imagine trying to do this with short term memory loss, and only the clues you have left yourself; this is the struggle faced by Leonard in MEMENTO.
MEMENTO was Christopher Nolan’s second feature film, and it played with the audience – and characters – in a way that Nolan has become known for. Leonard is a victim of his own mind, and brings the audience with him on his terrifying and confusing journey to the truth.


Many of us have memories that we would like to forget, although most of us acknowledge that these experiences are part of what makes us who we are. Not so Joel, the central character of Michel Gondry’s ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND who, after learning his ex-girlfriend Clementine had all memories of him erased from her mind, does the same thing to forget her.
The story is told as Joel’s memories are erased, giving the audience a frank and often surreal view of the relationship between the meek Joel, and the lively Clementine. Gondry’s film puts forth the notion that love is stronger than memory – as also explored in 50 FIRST DATES – and sees Joel and Clementine drawn to one another again after they have deliberately forgotten one another.
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND proved, once again, that Jim Carrey has a talent for drama and nuance, as he makes Joel a relatable and engaging character.


Pixar decided to play with the idea that fish have short memories, and created the character of Dory for their underwater adventure, FINDING NEMO. Voiced by Ellen De Generes, Dory is a sweet and caring fish who is constantly bewildered by the world around her because she constantly forgets it. When she teams up with Marlin, a clownfish whose son Nemo has been captured by scuba divers, she finds a friend, creates a family and starts to remember the important things.
Dory not only brings heart to FINDING NEMO, but she also brings plenty of comedy, with some fantastic one-liners, observational humour and rapid-fire delivery. It’s really little wonder that FINDING DORY has already been announced for 2016.


When he is rescued from the sea with two gunshot wounds in his back, a man realises that he is suffering from extreme memory loss. When he incapacitates two policemen using his bare hands, the man – who goes by the name of Jason Bourne – understands that there are assassins on his trail, and sets out to discover his true identity.
To be honest, if we woke up in a strange place, not knowing who we were, we would be delighted to find that we could defend ourselves in the way that Jason Bourne can. THE BOURNE IDENTITY is a fast paced thriller that was well received, and made a bona-fide action movie star out of Matt Damon.


BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP is released in Irish cinemas on September 5th 2014

Words: Brogen Hayes