Memory (2023) Ending: Do Saul and Sylvia End Up Together?

In Michel Franco’s ‘Memory,’ Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard star as two broken and lonely people who chance upon each other and develop a surprisingly deep connection. It begins with Chastain’s Sylvia going to a high school reunion where she doesn’t mingle or talk with anyone. When Saul, whom she doesn’t know, comes and sits next to her, she leaves and walks back home. She is disturbed when Saul follows her home and stays outside her place in the rain the entire night.

For Sylvia, this brings back some traumatic memories from her past, but then she discovers that Saul has nothing to do with what happened to her and is going through his own problems. A common ground is found between the two, and they unexpectedly fall in love with each other, but their relationship is not received well by others, especially Saul’s family. What does it mean for their future? SPOILERS AHEAD

What Happens to Saul and Sylvia?

When Sylvia asks why Saul followed her home from the reunion party, he says he doesn’t know. He is not lying, considering that he has dementia and doesn’t remember a lot of events that are supposed to be in his recent memory. At first, Sylvia thinks he did it because he recognized her from school, and this makes her think that he was one of the boys who raped and abused her when she was just twelve. She even confronts Saul about it, but he says he doesn’t remember.

At first, Sylvia is angry at him because she thinks his disease has made it convenient for him to forget that he used to be an abuser. Later, however, her sister points out that Saul joined the school the same year Sylvia left. This means they couldn’t have crossed paths, and he couldn’t have been one of those boys. This realization leads Sylvia back to Saul, and she even accepts the job as his caretaker.

It is during one of those days with Saul, going through his family album, that she sees a picture of his wife, who has the same hair color as Sylvia. Considering Saul’s condition, it seems logical that he mistook Sylvia for his wife, and this is why he followed her. When she walked away from him, he was confused because he thought his wife was angry with him, and he followed her because he thought he was following his wife home. However, when he ended up outside Sylvia’s door, he couldn’t remember why he was there.

Once small things like these start to come out about Saul, who is warm and compassionate, Sylvia starts to open up to him, too. Due to her past trauma, she had found it difficult to build lasting connections with someone. She didn’t talk about what happened to her with the boys and her own father, but with Saul, she felt understood, even when she didn’t have to say a thing. For Saul, Sylvia’s company had a similar effect. He couldn’t do anything about his memory, and it is possible that he would at times confuse Sylvia with his dead wife, but there was a genuine love for her in him, and that’s what would lead him to her again and again.

While their relationship was a comfort for Saul and Sylvia, for Saul’s brother, Isaac, it was quite troubling. He thought Sylvia was trying to take advantage of Saul’s condition. He thought she was trapping him because he was a rich guy. He didn’t stop to consider that perhaps the feelings Sylvia had for his brother were real. For him, Sylvia was a gold digger and could not be trusted. He is proven right, at least in his own eyes, when Saul gets hurt after falling off Sylvia’s balcony.

Following the incident, Isaac gets a male caretaker for Saul and takes away his phone to prevent him from talking to Sylvia. He had already blocked Saul’s credit cards. But money was never the factor in this relationship. With Saul gone, Sylvia falls into despair, and eventually, her daughter takes it upon herself to find Saul and bring him home with her, even though she knows it won’t be taken well by his family.

In the final scene, Saul and Sylvia are reunited, but their future together remains unlikely. With Saul gone, his caretaker would have instantly called Isaac, who would have shown up at Sylvia’s place to get his brother back. It is possible that Saul spoke out for himself, even though his brother thinks he has completely lost the ability to make rational decisions. What happens next depends on how far Isaac is ready to take things. He might press charges on Sylvia and her daughter for kidnapping Saul. Or, he might just agree to give them a chance.

Isaac had been struggling with taking care of his brother, and he brought Sylvia in because he thought they had clicked and that she could take care of him. Now that his brother and Sylvia have a genuine connection, which feels fake to him due to his suspicion of Sylvia’s intention, Isaac isn’t so sure about allowing them to be together. But as his brother’s situation deteriorates, he will have no option but to allow familiar things around him. If Sylvia brings him happiness, then Isaac will have to let her be around Saul so that he may experience whatever form of happiness he still can.

The worst thing about this situation is that Saul has no say in it. His condition has made him dependent, leaving his brother to make all the decisions for him. He is forced to be in the care of a nurse he doesn’t like, he is forced not to leave home, and he is forced not to meet Sylvia. From Isaac’s point of view, it makes sense; he is only trying to protect his brother. However, the limitations of his perspective keep him from seeing that his brother might yet find happiness.

In the end, even if Isaac agrees to let Saul be with Sylvia, the couple’s days together are numbered. It won’t be long before Saul starts to get worse. While he remembers old things about his childhood, his school days, and his wife, he is prone to forget recent things. Considering the timeline of his life, Sylvia is quite a recent development, and there is a chance that he may eventually forget her, too. As heartbreaking a possibility it is, both Saul and Sylvia can find comfort in the fact that they found each other, despite all odds in their lives, and got to experience the love they have for one another, even if briefly.

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