Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a spellbinding tale about realizing what you have just when you’re on the verge of losing it all. Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) is a crushed to learn that his long-time girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), has opted to completely wipe her memories of him. To retaliate, he decides to go for the same experimental procedure. He speaks with Dr. Howard Mierzwaik (Tom Wilkinson), the very same doctor who erased their troubled relationship out of Clementine’s mind. The doctor agrees and sends his two bumbling underlings Patrick (Elijah Wood) and Stan (Mark Ruffalo) to Joel’s apartment to perform the same procedure over the evening. However, as memories of his love flits from his mind, Joel realizes that he doesn’t want to let her go and ends up struggling to remember the moments they shared instead.
Wrap Your Mind Around It
For the most part, the film takes place inside of Joel’s mind. Memories of Clementine replay in reverse as each moment is rewritten by the procedure before proceeding to a previous meeting, which is likewise deleted. In order to salvage whatever he remembers about her, Joel stores moments with Clementine into a different part of his mind where she doesn’t fit in. This causes his mind to alter other memories, resulting in him remembering details differently. The funny thing is that fate is determined to bring the two back together and it does so with a strong sense of déjà vu when Joel has the urge to skip work on Valentine’s Day to take the train to Montauk. They each recall vague little snippets about their past and present life together. The delivery is clever, engaging and though maze-like, remains grounded for the audience. If anything, it manages to convince that no matter how painful or tumultuous affairs of the heart may be, we tend to remember the good more than the bad. At least if the feelings are genuinely there.
Twisting the Tale
Reteaming Human Nature director Michel Gondry with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman was a brilliant decision. The steady build up takes a while to take off but it does lead to a stellar conclusion, tying up all the characters and themes together flawlessly. Having the story told in reverse is movie innovation at its finest. It manages to be complex, yet accessible for fans of the genre. And just when you thought you’ve figured out the whole tale, the film blind sides you, managing to top your expectations. Though the plot focuses on Joel and Clementine, it also tells a story about Dr. Mierzwaik and his team. It’s truly a masterpiece about the complexity of human relationships and how even unpleasant memories have value. At some points of the tale, it may seem like the scenarios are out to mislead but they aren’t. It actually makes the film even more enjoyable to watch.
More than Comedy
With comedian Jim Carrey in the lead, the casting choice was initially questionable at best but we were more than happy to take back our lukewarm predictions. His serious side, topped with a dialed down, natural sense of humor helped make Joel relatable. Kate Winslet’s acting was, of course, full of heart. The mutual curiosity between the characters was a delight to behold and the emotional delivery was worth every second. It also helped that their personalities clashed, with Joel as the shy everyman who longs to connect whilst Clementine is a charming free spirit with odd, blue dyed hair. It gave the characters more depth and challenged them to overcome their differences for the sake of the love that keeps pulling them together.
It Leaves You Thinking
This thought provoking romance film manages to balance entertainment with sensible concepts. The delivery is grounded and the exploration of the human mind is utterly fascinating. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a must see movie for fans of the genre. Anybody who is all too familiar with the ups and downs of relationships will have the added benefit of taking priceless lessons away. Or at least, the tale could serve as a reminder of the fact that even ugly memories have a place in the success of a relationship. After all, who would we be without our past experiences?