Headscratchers: Shutter Island

  • Okay, so the doctors decided it would be a good idea to give Andrew, who is stated to be one of their most dangerous patients, free-reign of the asylum in order to act out his destructive fantasy in the hopes that it would bring him back to reality, when it could have easily resulted in him either getting himself or many other people killed in the process. Does anyone else fail to see the logic here?
    • They knew the risks, and believed that it was worth it if they could succeed at curing him. The whole exercise was an act of desperation. Besides, they took plenty of precautions, having him followed, keeping him away from weapons, and so on.
      • Hard to believe that they thought that this was at all preferable to either drugging him into submission or just lobotomizing him anyway.
      • Because they wanted to cure him. Drugging or lobotomizing him leaves him a broken man for the rest of his life.
      • Dr. Cawley speaks about how he dislikes how doctors today are quick to just give them medication or lobotomize them, when this should be a last solution, not the first. He wants to cure his patients, especially Andrew. This is the reason he does it.
  • Has anyone looked up the statute the guards reference at the beginning of the movie to convince the "agents" to turn in their guns? It's not real, is it?
    • They may have simply made it up, in-universe. Since Andrew is one of their most dangerous patients they would obviously not want him to have a firearm. As for why they apparently gave him a gun to begin with if they were just going to take it away, it could be a risk they took to further cement his delusion of being a U.S. marshal since they would probably have a standard-issue firearm. And as for why he doesn't know that the statute is fake, well, you could chalk that up to simple ignorance on his part.
      • The gun is fake anyway, as we see at the end. But perhaps they take it away because if he had used it, or, say, sat on it, the kayfabe would disintegrate along with it. As for the statute, you'd think a federal Marshal would know about federal penitentiary law before setting foot on the island. Seeing as how the Marshals are tasked with retrieving escapees, federal penitentiaries would be common territory.
      • It comes off more to me as Teddy hoping the guards at the penitentiary don't know about the law. The first time I watched the movie, it seemed a simple case of him testing waters, because, hey, if they back down and let him keep the gun that's a win for him. McPherson politely reminds him that he's calling the shots, by citing the rule. Teddy doesn't argue with it, or seem surprised, just reluctantly hands over his weapon.
  • What's with the disappearing liquids ? In the first or second dreaming sequence, Teddy is speaking to his wife, who is accusing him of drinking too much again. It is raining ashes and she holds up a bottle of whisky and asks : "are you ever sober anymore ?" Next shot, her hand is in the same position but the bottle disappeared and she appears to be clasping thin air. Same thing when Teddy interrogates the female patient on the island. She asks "Chuck" for a glass of water. We can physically SEE the glass, as he puts it in front of her, and when she grabs it to drink it, it's not there anymore and it seems like she's mimicking the action. Her hand is also grasping thin air... What was the intention behind that ?
    • Whew, I saw that second one and thought I was crazy. Probably, it was a subtle audience clue. Since there's no Chuck, there's no glass of water. Or perhaps it is a side effect of her craziness — she doesn't actually pick up the glass, because she's loony. Maybe she thinks, like Noyce does, that there's Something In The Water. As for the first one, that was during a dream; there was a lot more going on there that was weird than just a disappearing bottle. As in most of his dreams.
    • To add another reason: We're seeing the movie from the protagonist's, Andrew's, point of view. At this point in the movie (as well as other points in the movie), we are seeing Teddy's true self seep through the surface of his alias. As a troubled patient at the mental hospital, Andrew Leaddiss has a severe aversion to water. (It is a wonder if the harsh weather in the movie strengthened his psychosis and hindered the doctor's experiment in any way.) It is a sensible fear because his wife drowned his three children in a lake by their house. He swam into the lake in order to pull their cold, dead bodies from the water. His wife was soaking wet when she approached him with the crazy idea of dressing them up as dolls and going on a picnic. He blames himself for her mental deterioration and by extension, the dead kids. To Andrew Laeddis, water only brings pain and guilt. He does not want to face the harsh reality of what water means to him so his mind mentally blocks its existence. Notice you only see the glass of water of the patient he is interviewing when it is empty.
    • The books reveals in its opening chapter that Teddy's father was a sailor who drowned at sea, and that even before then, he always felt uncomfortable around the sea. It's never really confirmed if this holds true for Andrew Laeddis as well, though it is stated that his father really did die very early. It's altogether possible that Andrew's unintentionally rationalizing his obvious hydrophobia with childhood trauma, instead of facing what happened much later in his life.
  • Why is Andrew in a mental hospital? Or for that matter, a federal prison? Seems to me that what he did was a crime of passion, Murder 2 at most, not a case of criminal insanity. What did he do that made him a danger to others? Are other wives of his likely going to kill their children also, therefore he must be stopped before he kills again?
    • He started to suffer delusions after what happened, hence why he was committed. It wasn't just killing his wife, but the realization that he could have stopped her from murdering their children if he hadn't been so caught up in his own issues.
  • In what scenes with Chuck is he really there? In the beginning, Teddy and Chuck are on the ferry to the island, chit-chatting. So, did they really take him out on the ferry, and then turn it around just so that he and Chuck come off the ferry?
    • Chuck is always there, except in Teddy's dreams and in that moment when he hallucinates Chuck's body at the bottom of the cliff; it's just that "Chuck" is Sheehan playing a role. And yes, they really did take them out on the ferry just to help Teddy pretend that he was arriving for the first time.
  • Why does Dr. Sheehan play along with Laeddis' delusion? Even in the lighthouse scene, he still calls Laeddis "Boss".
    • He wants him to get committed so that when he's finally confronted with proof that he's been deluded it'll stick and he'll have no choice but to face the truth.
    • [[The book's prologue is written by Dr. Sheehan, who states he considered Teddy Daniels a dear friend. Also, it's important to note that in the lighthouse scene, Sheehan isn't pretending, just being affectionate with his patient of two years.]]
  • This is more about a weird writing decision than the plot itself. It feels a little too convenient that the character's real name "Andrew Laeddis", a very weird-sounding name, just happens to work out as an anagram of the fake persona's name "Edward Daniels". I would think that having "Daniels" be the real name and "Laeddis" the fake name would be more natural.
    • A lot of real world last names sound fake or weird. It's not as unnatural to come across someone with a strange last name than you think.
    • And it seems less likely for "Laeddis" which is the more unusual name, to have been made up by Laeddis.
    • Also, Andrew has had quite some time to develop this delusion. He could have been messing around with the letters of his name at some point in order to create a new one.
    • Actually, this is addressed in the book. Andrew's sons were named Edward and Daniel. 'Edward Daniels' and 'Rachel Solando' are both in fact references to Andrew's dead children. Also, Teddy was in fact a codebreaker during the war, so the book is littered with loads of anagrams and riddles, which they cut out of the screenplay because a lot of it only really works if you're reading a book and can dwell on the puzzles. The sons are also renamed Simon and Henry, because A) It's incredibly unrealistic Andrew would name his sons in preparation for oneday assuming an anagram-friendly amalgam of their names, and B) Saying 'Remember your sons! Edward! Daniel!' aloud would confuse audience members, ('Remember your sons, Edward Daniels?') because again, a lot of the twists only work if you have time to absorb them. The only issue in the final film is that one gets the impression Andrew didn't really care for his sons compared to his daughter Rachel, when in fact he was just as much in mourning for them. (Though admittedly, there's a paragraph that mentions he did love Dolores more than his sons, but perhaps not his daughter.)