Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Bottom Line: Heartwarming.  Heartbreaking.  Mesmerizing.

Directed by: Michel Gondry
Starring: Elijah Wood, Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson

“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d…”
–“Eloisa to Abelard”, lines 207-210, by Alexander Pope

Charlie Kaufman is a genius, one of few remaining screenwriters who can structure a film like prose amid the utter beauty of a poem.  Only on the rarest of occasions does Kaufman write in an accessible nature, so to speak, but the mesmerizing atmosphere that has been constructed not only holds our undivided attention for as long as it pleases, it also demands further viewings.  Not to decipher, but to enjoy the glorious experience once more.  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a brave feat deserving of insurmountable praise.  We’d generally scoff at a cross between the romance and science fiction genres.  It seems like a novel idea for those longing to revisit the golden age of B-movies.  But Kaufman can, quite simply, do anything, even make an audience tear up at the end of his romantic sci-fi film.

Eternal Sunshine is an artwork so psychologically empowered, only Sigmund Freud could possibly put his finger on what it truly means.  For all other viewers, it’s a grandiloquent Rorschach test.  Just this one film can lead to thousands, dare I say millions of interpretations.  Our story follows a man named Joel (Jim Carrey).  Joel is antisocial and therefore cannot find a woman he truly loves.  One day, he finds a strange love at first sight in a woman named Clementine (Kate Winslet), as she does in him.  But he can’t maintain a relationship without consistently speaking his mind, without accidentally offending or insulting her.  Fast-forward circa Valentine’s Day, when Joel finds Clementine with her new boyfriend.  He makes an attempt to speak with her, as they have not spoken in a while, but she seems not recognize him at all.  It turns out that with every second she had spent with Joel, Clementine was beginning to loathe herself more and more.  To put an end to her depression, she subjected herself to an experimental medical procedure that erases unwanted memories from a patient’s mind.  Joel simply cannot bear the thought, and decides to erase her from his memory, as well.  As he is asleep, memories fading away, Joel begins to recall several unforgettable moments he spent with Clementine, such moments he could never live without.

The less you know about Eternal Sunshine, the more you will thoroughly cherish it.  My previous mentions are merely a brief encapsulation of the story; there’s far more to behold.  What sets the film off so perfectly to begin with is the chemistry between the two lead characters.  Kate Winslet plays in a quirky, whimsical role as a woman who doesn’t know herself; Jim Carrey in an honorably seriocomic role as an upright, laconic man who wishes not to know himself.  Opposites attract, and oddly enough, so do leading performers from Titanic and Dumb and Dumber.  Don’t ask me how this works out, because you could ask me the same about the film itself and I’d have not a clue.  Eternal Sunshine is a film we wish we could savor more of.  It ends on such an unexpected yet redeeming and bittersweet note, which is perfect for the offbeat romance it is.  The story flows smoothly, which is perfect just as well.  But we just want more of the story.  I guess, as the film concludes, all you can do is savor the moment while it lasts, for it will be gone.

NOTE: I did, in fact, tear up at the end of the film.  In recent memory, only one other film (The Elephant Man) has brought me to tears.  I hope that says something.



16 thoughts on “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

  1. Loved the review. Yes, this is probably one of my favorite movies of all time. Like you mentioned, on paper, this movie doesn’t seem like it would work at all – from the pairing of the actors to the concept and mesh of genres – but it just does. This is also a great example of how I believe comic actors going into the next phase of their careers make the best dramatic actors. Jim Carey is so good in this, I think it’s one of his best films post the 90s era where he dominated as a comedian (not so much anyone as I think comedy is so different now that he doesn’t fit there anymore). In this, he’s sweet, introverted, and unsure of himself, things we didn’t see from him much before. For me, it’s the same with Will Ferrell where I loved him in “Stranger than Fiction”.

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