To quickly summarize, in the film Remember Sunday, Actor Zachary Levi plays as Gus, a current jeweler and former astronomer living in New Orleans, who suffered from a brain aneurysm that gave him anterograde amnesia. He was able to retain his already grounded Long-Term memories prior to the incident however, he cannot form any new memories. Alexis Bledel plays as Molly, a waitress who’s been unlucky in love and financially shaky as she awaits for an inheritance to come her way. As any love story, she and Gus are designed to be together, but how can someone love a person who will forget them every day for the rest of their lives?
This a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, as such this does deliver the expected romantic drama love story to it. For those in the Psychology major, a feeling of familiarity should be apparent in the movie. I can’t say that this movie is particularly astounding, but I can say that it does its best to be unique and thoughtful about life without something we take for granted everyday, memories. If you have the time, I urge you to think critically about the leading characters in the film and how it translates to the patients we humbly get to study. The film sheds some light onto very real and sometimes very frightening aspects of the human condition while keeping a generally light tone. I think for those of us studying psychology, it’s easy to forget that the patients we read about time and time again aren’t just their brain damage/psychological disorder. What I like about this movie is when you slip into Gus’s shoes, there is a lot of sacrifice and frustration that comes with having to live with a memory impairment like the one portrayed in this film. That premise is what I consider to be it’s strongest point.
While yes I did really like the film and find a lot of lesson in it, I can’t get past some major plot holes regarding Gus’s condition and how it was expressed by the director Jeff Bleckner.
The biggest plot hole is it’s false overarching idea of how short-term and long term memory function in the human brain (as of our current research). In the film at about 36 minutes, Gus, along with his sister go to a doctors appointment where the doctor explains to him, “Most healthy brains use sleep to consolidate short-term memories into long for you it’s the opposite, sleep takes away your short term memories.” Then, throughout the days in the movies it’s understood that he remembers 6am, his usual wake up time, until he goes to sleep.
Here’s why that’s an issue. As of current research, the average short-term memory is 6-7 chunks in capacity according to Miller, while long term memory is immensely vast. The movie is giving the false impression that everything we do from when we wake until we sleep is held in short term and later consolidated and processed into long term. Not all of our day is only short-term memory. A lot of what we do in our day is encoded in a variety of ways. Moving information into long-term memory is process that can be done with consistent memory rehearsal techniques and methods, not only during sleep. However, it is true that for memory consolidation, sleep is quite important. The hippocampus is what decides what information moves into long term, and it does this when the body is asleep or awake. Moving information from short term into long term memory, is a consistent process that can be expressed through primacy and recency tasks like word list recall. This is a task that shows we can move information into long term when awake. When researching cases regarding the idea of losing memory after 24 hours, I found the case of F.L. In this case, a woman was in a car accident and her memory functioned normally throughout the day, until she went to sleep. Unlike the case of F.L., the film makes it clear that Gus’s memory doesn’t work like normal, his hippocampus was severely damaged, therefore he shouldn’t display similarities to F.L. Instead, a more accurate portrayal of Gus would have been if his life was shown similar to H.M., a man whose hippocampus was removed because of his severe epilepsy. The film says Gus’ hippocampus was “destroyed,” so we can only assume it was unable to function in entirety similar to H.M. Therefore, the expression of anterograde amnesia on screen for Gus’ particular case seems very unlikely.
Getting past this main issue, the following are somethings that I believe the movie did well. Gus’s Procedural memory such as working on the jewelry, making origami elephants, and rollerskating are all examples that seemed to hint that Gus’ procedural learning still remained functional despite the amnesia. While these may also be from past experience, he did continue to practice and do better at these tasks.
Furthermore, The bridge scene is something I think is notable. We have to remember that experiencing such an intense event in one’s life such as an aneurysm, is traumatic. Gus’s aneurysm was a traumatic event and we see it more visually when he reaches that bridge in California in front of his former observatory. His breathing changes and the stress in his voice is clear, almost at the verge of panic. He claims that the observatory and the event of what he learns to be his aneurysm, plays in his mind as the very last solid moment he remembers before his memories shut off.
He may not remember the aneurysm himself, though he re-learns everyday that this aneurysm, at the last place he remembers, has derailed his growing career, his life, and his ability to create a future. These feeling can be extremely painful, yet he only has a little less than a day to cope with that pain. We learned from H.M. that grief requires time and memory. He couldn’t cope fully with the news of his uncle’s death, because he couldn’t create any new memories to help him cope. This concept is something I’m sure is very hard for people with a healthy functioning brain to fully fathom. However, I believe it is important to take the time to really try to reflect the weight that H.M and patients with other debilitating conditions had to carry on their shoulders.
For further information on memory and research for this post check https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vSFeVHKvsuNj6Mdmz41EgnyYRmNk82llGEl2dOcgn_soTfLnCAxb_ronGDAuv9CAVazTMe0aWx8xuDU/pub