The Rule of 4 and Patient 67

The rule of 4 has to do with the anagram names Andrew invents for his fantasy world. “Edward (Teddy) Daniels” is an anagram of “Andrew Laeddis” and “Rachel Solando” is an anagram of “Dolores Chanal,” the maiden name of Andrew’s dead wife. Four names, get it? As for patient 67: Andrew Laeddis IS patient 67. As long as “Teddy Daniels” is looking for patient 67 he’ll never be able to find him, and his fantasy will be sustained.

“Rachel Solando” is also a play on “Rachel Laeddis”, the name of Andrew’s dead daughter. His daughter is also the same little girl who shows up in his Holocaust dreams, saying, “You should have saved me,” which is Andrew’s mind trying to work through the trauma of what happened. His daughter represents the truth – she’s the one thing Andrew can’t deny or forget. The nurse Dr. Cawley has pose as Rachel Solando is part of a therapy technique to get Andrew to remember his real wife – if you watch that scene again, the Cawley’s gamble almost works, but not quite. Andrew’s brain simply can’t handle the strain.

Final Confirmation From the Filmmakers

I was fortunate enough to attend the press junket for Shutter Island back when the movie was released, and had a chance to sit down with DiCaprio, Sir Ben Kingsley and Martin Scorsese. The stars and director talked at great length about how difficult it was to film Shutter Island. The problem was that when they started shooting the film, they realized that upon first viewing the audience would have to believe that Dr. Cawley and Shutter Island could be something sinister, but upon second viewing you would have to be able to tell that everyone around Teddy is in on the role play game, and are trying to maintain the fantasy – though many of the staff and guards are not happy about it.

Upon viewing the film a second time and knowing how it ends, I have to say Scorsese and the cast did a great job. It’s all too obvious that the other characters know that Teddy is crazy, and here are a few tip-offs to help you see it:

  • Watch the guards throughout the film. They get extremely edgy whenever “Teddy” is around, and clutch their guns a little tighter. This is especially true at the beginning when “The Marshals” come to the island. It’s because the guards know Teddy is a lunatic and they’re not exactly thrilled about the role play experiment. It’s also why they are less than enthused about looking for a Rachel Solando who doesn’t exist down by the ocean rocks.
  • Pay attention to the staff interview scene. When Teddy and Chuck interview the nurses and orderlies it’s easy to see just how ridiculous the staff finds the interview. One nurse says something about how ‘far from normal’ their jobs are – she’s making an ironic joke because she’s talking to a lunatic dressed as a cop. In that scene, the staff are also not too enthused about the role play, and Dr. Sheehan / Chuck pushes them to answer Teddy’s questions. You’ll see what I mean.
  • When Teddy interviews Mrs. Kearns (the “normal” insane lady), she talks about how great Dr. Sheehan is. There is a bit of awkward eye contact between her and “Chuck” because she’s talking about him! It’s also why she asks Chuck for water and he quickly accepts (it’s an awkward moment). Mrs. Kearns writes “run” on the paper she slips to Teddy because she knows he has an opportunity to escape while they’re doing the whole role play experiment. It’s also why she sounds “coached” about what to tell Teddy – she has been. As for the conspiracy about why Mrs. Kearns’ hand is empty when she goes to drink the water Chuck brings…she’s crazy, let’s not forget that. I doubt it was an error in editing.

  • The creepy lady in the yard at the beginning of the film does the “shush” motion at Teddy because she knows him, knows that she’s playing a game and has been instructed not to spoil it. She’s a crazy lady enjoying a game, that’s all.
  • When Teddy reveals to Dr. Naehring that he’s figured out the patient 67 riddle during a staff meeting, Naehring says “What are they doing here?” He’s genuinely annoyed that Dr. Cawley is letting Teddy/Andrew roam so freely.
  • In Ward C Teddy is accosted by a loose prisoner and nearly strangles that prisoner to death. “Chuck” and a guard show up and drag the strangled man away. The guard tells Teddy that he can’t come along to the infirmary, while mumbling about how much trouble he’s going to be in – for letting a patient strangle another patient.

In the end, Shutter Island is a pretty clear-cut mystery. I realize that boiling it down to “Teddy is crazy” might not be as fun as some of the conspiracy theories out there, but the evidence is all over the film. Still, isn’t it fun when a film sparks so much debate, discussion and imagination? I would rather have that than another dumb, by-the-numbers movie on my hands – wouldn’t you?

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