Amnesia in 50 First Dates

Topics: Amnesia

In Peter Segal’s 2004, ninety-nine-minute romantic comedy, 50 First Dates, he portrays a woman who suffers from “Goldfield syndrome”, that prevents her from creating new memories. Throughout the romantic-comedy, every day is a new day and love is greatly tested.

50 First Dates is about a marine veterinarian at Sea Life Park, Henry, played by Adam Sandler, who has a past with women. Henry has no means in committing to any woman as he could be considered a ‘playboy’, until one day he goes to a local café in Hawaii where he meets a woman named Lucy, played by Drew Barrymore.

Hesitant to introduce himself at first, he realizes she goes to the diner often and decides to sit with her when he sees her struggling to make a door for a house out of waffles.

When Henry cleverly helps Lucy, she asks him to meet her at the café again in the morning. Henry agrees and arrives the next morning only soon to realize Lucy has no idea who he is, a family friend of Lucy, Sue, explains to Henry that she was in a car accident with her father, Marlin, on his birthday the year before, leaving her with “Goldfield syndrome”, which is really anterograde amnesia, which prevents her from making new memories.

Every day that Lucy wakes up is the same day and her fearful dad and brother, Marlin and Doug, relive that Sunday to spare her from reliving the car accident. Knowing that Lucy will not remember their days together Henry invites Lucy to have breakfast with him that later goes downhill.

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This is then where Henry meets Marlin and Doug who tell him to leave her alone, so he comes up with ways to “unintentionally” run into her. Soon Marlin and Doug find out that Henry did not listen to their demand when every day Lucy meets Henry she comes home singing “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys. After almost a year of trying to prevent Lucy from remembering the horrible accident, she gets pulled over for having expired plates, which confuses her because in her mind it is October 13th. Soon after realizing it really is not the day she thinks it is she rushes home and Marlin and Doug have to admit everything to Lucy. Once Henry learns of what happened he decides to make a video that Lucy can watch every day reminding her of her accident and the love they have for each other. After learning that Henry turns down a big job opportunity to go sailing and study walruses, Lucy decides she wants to erase all of her memories of her and Henry by destroying her journal that kept all of these memories. Henry prepares to leave for the trip when Marlin tells him about the times Lucy came home singing “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, where he then realizes that her singing The Beach Boys song is an indication of her remembering him.

Soon after he embarks on his journey listening to The Beach Boys where he realizes he does not want to lose Lucy, so he turns around to rush to the brain institute that Lucy teaches an art class at. When he arrives, he asks Lucy if she knows who he is, and she claims she does not remember him but informs him that she dreams about him often and proceeds to show him the pictures she has painted of him from these dreams. Time goes on and Lucy wakes up on a boat to a video of “Good Morning Lucy’ where it informs her of her accident, shows her a video of her and Henry’s wedding, and then of Henry telling her to put a jacket on and to come have breakfast. When Lucy goes up she realizes she is on a boat in Alaska with Henry and her daughter.

Throughout the movie it is portrayed that Lucy is the main character that has a disability, that is referred to as “Goldfield syndrome” in the movie but is really anterograde amnesia. Every night that Lucy goes to sleep her memory is wiped clean and she relives October 13th, the day of the accident every day, with no recollection of the accident with her and her father only everything leading up to it. In the movie Lucy is unable to form any new memories and her life is basically in a stand still until she learns the truth of the accident and is then reminded of it every morning when she wakes up in order to go forth with her life.

50 First Dates, has a different way of portraying someone with anterograde amnesia. First and foremost, it is indicated in the movie that Lucy suffers from “Goldfield’s Syndrome”, which is not a real thing, the character really has is anterograde amnesia. Another inaccurate portrayal is that Marlin and Doug go through great strengths in making sure that Lucy does not know of the accident and her condition of anterograde amnesia. They look after her every day and ensure that each day is the exact same as the day of the car accident by celebrating her father’s birthday, putting out the same Sunday paper every morning, refilling her shampoo bottle, re-watching the same Minnesota Vikings game and the movie The Sixth Sense.

Most of the time families who deal with this type of injury try everything in their power to make the patient remember what had happened in hopes of them recovering from the brain injury. It is difficult to have someone not remember a single day and have to remind them every waking moment, so it is important to the families that the patient recover. I also feel that Lucy was portrayed in a more positive light than most people who suffer from this type of injury because her dad and brother did help to keep this from her by doing all of the things they did to help relive the same day and also because many patients are kept in a hospital setting and are not able to drive around and live a completely normal life because an injury to the brain can be very serious and overwhelming.

Overall, Segal did a great job at portraying a person who has anterograde amnesia because it results from many of different things including traumatic brain injury. The movie also accurately portrayed a person who suffers from anterograde amnesia by showing that Lucy remembered everything that happened that day before the accident, from checking the Sunday paper to celebrating her dad’s birthday all the way to ending the day by watching the same movie. Those who suffer from this type of injury remember everything that happened before the accident and are unable to form new short-term memories, which is exactly what Drew Barrymore’s character showed. I feel that although this movie does have a few faults in exactly portraying TBI, this could be very helpful for educators to learn a few things about this type of disability.

I believe that Segal took a very serious disability and made it fun and interesting to learn more about. Drew Barrymore did a great job at playing this character who suffers from anterograde amnesia while Adam Sandler added the comedy and fun to the movie. This movie personally made me realize that it is possible for someone with this disability to somewhat recover and live a normal life, but the pathway to recovery is long and it takes effort from not only the patient but the patients family and friends. Personally, I developed a better understanding of what anterograde amnesia consists of after learning that is what the movies fake diagnosis really was. 50 First Dates definitely shows what it is like to live a life of an individual who cannot form new memories and it shows that anterograde amnesia is a tiring disability.

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Amnesia in 50 First Dates. (2022, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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