Age and Memory in MEMO

MEMO is a moving representation of the memory loss of an elderly man trying to reclaim his independence and live his life as he once did.

The film opens with Louis in his home—there are sticky notes everywhere with scrawling handwriting. He takes down many of them, throwing them in a trashcan laden with notes from previous days. As he goes to make a cup of coffee, he finds the canister is empty. The phone rings—it is his daughter, Nina. She says she will pick up some coffee but he insists on going himself, frustrated that his daughter doesn’t think he can perform this simple task. He enters the store down the street, confident at first but quickly becoming afraid as the labels of items and shelves begin to fade and blur. He finds the coffee and rushes out without paying. The fading becomes more intense until he is completely surrounded by white space, alone. Even his own shadow is mostly obscured. It is only when he hears his daughter’s voice that he gets in touch with reality once more.

MEMO sensitively depicts a relationship between parent and child, complicated by the process of aging. There is clear affection on both sides of the relationship—Louis’ pictures of his daughter on the fridge establish his love for her. Nina’s attentiveness to Louis’ needs show she sincerely cares for him; more subtly, however, it also reveals an intense undercurrent of concern for her father and his ailing memory. Likewise, Louis’ love for his daughter is complicated slightly by his own frustration with his loss of faculties; he gets angry with her because he is frustrated with his own mental decay. The film ends on a positive note, reasserting the closeness of their relationship. In the simpler moments, everything between them can continue undisrupted; however, the happy scene is shaded by the specter of more memory loss to come. MEMO ambitiously depicts a complex portrait of parent-child relationships, revealing the inversion of the natural order that takes place as aging takes over. It is a difficult transition to navigate, no matter how close the relationship is to start with.

The visualization of memory loss in MEMO is innovative and visually striking. Louis’ loss of memory is depicted almost like ink smearing and images fading into nothingness. It is beautiful and melancholy simultaneously. The technique is first used when Louis goes to the store, the items on the shelves fading and bleeding into nondescript shapes and blank space—this is a moving and artful representation of short-term memory faculties fading. Though Louis can still remember who his daughter is, everyday tasks have become a challenge. The blurring and fading almost feels like a surreal, sentient presence, showing how out of control and helpless Louis feels in the face of his memory loss—it strikes a tone both sinister and sad. The opening shot of Louis’ reflection obscured by sticky notes is emblematic of his emotional state: he struggles to retain his sense of self despite losing his memory, but it has taken a toll. The end of the film—in which the fridge in his own home begins to fade until Louis places a sticky note on it and stops the spread of the fog—feels both hopeful and resigned. The audience knows the memory loss will return and yet there is comfort in Louis finding this temporary fix.

MEMO navigates a difficult subject with beauty and delicacy. It is difficult and often frustrating to watch a loved one grow old; the film excellently creates an empathetic portrait of an aging mind, showing both the pain and the enveloping love.

Samantha Bloom

Samantha is a graduate from Stanford University with a B.A. in English with an emphasis in creative writing. Her previous writing projects have included a satirical Silicon Valley musical, a short film that moves the story of Jekyll and Hyde onto social media, a short film about female embodiment in the modern age, and short stories galore. She’s an obsessive fan girl with an affinity for 80s pop, science fiction, and quirky historical facts. She hopes to be a writer for TV and/or film one day.

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