All-Time Favorites #3
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
“I’m just exactly where I want to be.”
Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Ruffalo
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the best love stories ever told. It is a trip into the subconsciousness and the human condition itself. Gondry worked with Charlie Kaufman and the French performance artist Pierre Bismuth on the story, earning them an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Kaufman’s screenplays are often told through the eyes of self-conscious artists with high levels of anxiety. One can’t help but wonder if the main character Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) is another alter ego of Kaufman’s, whose most famous works include the exceptional Being John Malkovich (1999) and Adaptation (2002).
The premise seems rather simple: Joel has found out that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) had all the memories of their relationship wiped from her mind. In an effort to get over their break-up, he sets out to receive the same medical precedure. Lacuna Inc. offers just that to its patients
- peace of mind. When his memories are being erased, Joel soon realizes that he is not willing to give up on Clementine and the time they had together, be it good or bad. Most of the movie plays out in his mind, where we get to see flickers of their past moments together.
The scenes in Joel’s head reveal his insecurities and self-doubts, while Clementine is the exact opposite
- outgoing, quirky and fun. Soon, what initially attracted the two to each other turns into being annoying and results in bitter arguments. In this regard, the movie does not sugarcoat what can happen to relationships when the routines of every day life kick in.
Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet appear to be an unlikely couple, which somehow makes their attraction feel all the more real. Winslet’s Clementine is my favorite character that she has played so far. She breathes life into a woman with many flaws, but is charismatic as hell. Jim Carrey is as good as ever, and Jon Brion’s thoughtful score captures the mood perfectly. There are many moving sequences, whose impact I attribute to Michel Gondry’s unique narrative style. The visuals, illustrating Joel’s journey through his mind, are simply stunning.
The movie’s brilliance, however, comes from the fact that it goes beyond the surface, asking philosophical questions of what shapes us as human beings. If we were able to take away all the disappointments in our lives, would we do it? Would we feel better without having to carry around painful memories? Or would we rather keep them, having lived and learned from them? In Eternal Sunshine love ultimately prevails
- and that is, without doubt, the beauty of it.