For many of us, there are moments in our lives that we’d rather forget. But that isn’t an option for Aurelien, a 20-year old student who resides in Durham, England. Possessed with the power of near-perfect recall, he can recite specific events from random dates in his past with almost superhuman accuracy. The Boy Who Can’t Forget profiles Aurelien and others throughout the world who share his unique gift, and plumbs the mysterious depths of memory in the process.
The filmmakers approach their subjects from both a human and scientific perspective. Those who possess this ability don’t subscribe to complex memory retention techniques, nor are they hiding any tricks up their sleeve. For them, remembering which day of the week fell on a particular date twenty years ago, and all the personal activities and world events that correspond to that date, is as easy and natural as breathing.
It’s a talent that baffles and astounds members of the scientific community. The film introduces us to one such figure, a professor at the University of California who has spent a great number of years studying the phenomenon, yet continues to struggle in finding a reasonable explanation for it. Another professor from New York University offers his own tantalizing hypothesis by chalking it up to a form of obsessive compulsive disorder, a charge that is vehemently rejected by others in the film.
The film also gives us a sense of what it’s like to live with unlimited memories, and how it can serve as more of a curse than a blessing for some. Nature usually offers the comfort of distance from the undesirable moments in our lives, and grants us the ability to cope by allowing those memories to fade in reflection. The film’s remarkable subjects are not afforded this luxury, and they live with the oftentimes overwhelming implications of this reality on a daily basis.
How are memories formed and retained? Do we all carry in us the potential for total recall, or is it only bestowed upon a chosen few? By addressing these questions and many more, The Boy Who Can’t Forget embarks on a fascinating exploration into the unknown corridors of the human mind.