Leonard suffered from Anterograde amnesia, the loss of memory of what happens after the event that caused the amnesia, his wife’s murder (or, more commonly, short-term memory loss). This prevented him from holding memories after his wife’s rape/ murder in his brain for longer than a short time until they were forgotten. Due to this reason, he cannot maintain relationships, learn new things, and has no perception of time.
The two primary ways the story is told are through pictures taken by Leonard and tattoos on his body. Due to his inability to remember any new memories for long durations, he used mental cues written under his Polaroid pictures and “FACTS” tattooed on his body to retrace his steps. The effective measure of these cues makes the movie very unpredictable because new things/ events are always being revealed to Leonard through the mental cues he leaves for himself. However, the ineffective aspect of such a storytelling method is that the story is going in reverse chronological order; it can be confusing at times to understand the context of the cues and how they relate to one another.
Perception is acquiring information from the environment (through your senses) and organizing that information in a sensible way. Throughout the movie, Leonard’s perception of the world around him is skewed beyond belief because of his inability to retain new memories. He is oblivious to time and can only judge and react to situations at instantaneous moments. Perception is the outcome of the brain’s organization of incoming stimuli, information, and interpretation of the events we are experiencing. But because of Leonard’s condition, almost every situation will appear “new” to him. Therefore his perception of the world would greatly differ from mine or yours.
It is very difficult to follow because the story is told in reverse chronological order. The man Leonard kills at the beginning of the movie appears to be the man who killed his wife. However, as more and more events are revealed to us, the situation becomes more apparent. The exploitation of Leonard by those around him for miscellaneous purposes is made clear, and the people who appear to be aiding Leonard, Natalie, were actually setting him up. This movie requires you to be very attentive because of how information is revealed. Your brain organizes all this information through perception to understand the motives for what is transpiring.
After his brain injury, Leonard has no short-term memory.
Yes, this movie is a fairly accurate representation of people living with Anterograde amnesia. Leonard has attempted to do his best to live his life with accurate perception but often failed because he lacks something so critical to human beings, memory. By simply not writing something down or taking a picture, events from his mind, important or not, will vanish forever, and he will be unable to ever recall them. Surprisingly, he has survived as long as he has without professional help, but his under dying motive to take revenge on his wife’s alleged murders over and over again could be the reason for that. He cannot form new memories, and therefore his life has lost purpose, so Leonard is stuck in what many would describe as a “time capsule,” avenging his wife repeatedly.
The only reason that Leonard can process in such a manner is that he has a tremendously strong intention of avenging his wife.