"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004)

Rating: R:15
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Romance
Directed By: Michel Gondry
Written By: Charlie Kaufman
Released: April 30th, 2004
Runtime: 108 minutes
Studio: Focus Features

After a painful breakup, Clementine (Kate Winslet) undergoes a procedure to erase memories of her former boyfriend Joel (Jim Carrey) from her mind. When Joel discovers that Clementine is going to extremes to forget their relationship, he undergoes the same procedure and slowly begins to forget the woman that he loved. Directed by former music video director Michel Gondry, the visually arresting film explores the intricacy of relationships and the pain of loss.

Well first word of advice – ignore the trailer for this film! From word of mouth, I was anticipating something of a serious tale of love, far from the happy-go-lucky impression the trailer gives off. It is nothing like the trailer leads you to believe, that is for sure. And I’m glad in a way. It’s less predictable. Sure, it starts off sort of rom-comish…Boy meets girl. The story takes a turn for the serious as the film goes on and it doesn’t really come back.

The concept of the plot is very unique. I really liked this about it. The idea that you can erase a whole person’s memory and existence from your mind is crazy. It’s kind of sad. But I’m sure there’s people we’d all like to do this with. Seems very harsh though. Particularly the way it was revealed that Clemintine had done it in the film. Not knowing her side of the story it feels like such a blow we almost feel kind of bitter towards her. Even though I’m sure it was mutually upsetting and both sides would have been understandable had we known. 

I think it’s a matter of difference in expectations from both parties. They both wanted different scenarios in their relationship, both had different ideas embarking on it. I’m inclined to believe that in this case nobody was particularly at fault. The characters are the way they are and sometimes people don’t mesh together in the way they thought they would. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. It’s sad really.

It’s interesting how this plays out where we don’t know what actually happened and we find out as the film goes on.

I found the sequence at the beginning of the procedure very confusing to figure out and keep up with what was going on. I’m assuming this is what we’re supposed to feel. We’re supposed to feel a sense of disorientation and confusion to coincide with how Joel is feeling. He’s losing a part of his mind in a literal sense of the phrase!! If this is indeed the intention, it was effectively done. I got into it eventually.

Clemintine’s character is eccentric and full on from the word go. She kind of thrusts herself upon Joel at the beginning of the film. For a first meeting, it’s pretty full on. I wouldn’t know how to deal with a person like that, honestly, I think it would irritate me hugely. But I guess from an audience’s perspective watching this film, it makes her character more interesting as opposed to annoying. She’s impulsive, feisty, opinionated, and not a person to be tied down. A free spirit. She’s also very high maintenance. She scolded him a lot throughout the film and got offended very easily. Mostly due to her own interpretation of the conversation that she almost always started. She spent a lot of time criticising him. He spent a lot of time trying to keep himself to himself. They were polar opposites. Usually something thought to work well between two people – opposite attract – in this case they did attract but they did not mesh. 

Kate Winslet is as always phenomenal. She never fails to surprise and certainly never disappoints. One of the best actresses out there. I never would have imagined her in this kind of role but after seeing it I can’t imagine anyone else in the role.

Similarly, so with Jim Carey. I have always seen him in comedy or silly roles. This is a big turn around for me to see him playing such a downbeat fellow. This shows how diverse an actor he is as well. To be honest I enjoyed him more in this film than many of the other comedic roles I’ve seen him in (that is aside from The Truman Show!). Great actor.

About half way through there was a twist. Well, I don’t know if it was a twist. But I didn’t see this part of the plot coming. Elijah Wood’s character was stealing Joel’s identity? This film messes with your head sort of. The moment Joel realises he doesn’t want to go through with forgetting Clemintine is kind of bittersweet because he’s there reliving all these memories and he realises he doesn’t want to forget her. He still loves her. But he doesn’t. He just loves the idea of her. It’s often said that we look back on memories in a fonder light than how we actually felt at the time. I think this applies here, which makes this film that bit more morbid. I really liked how it was done – the realisation and attempts to reverse or get out of the procedure. Disorientating and dreamlike.

There are plenty more twists and turns throughout the plot. I won’t go into what they are because I don’t want to spoil the film for those who haven’t seen the film. But suffice to say I didn’t see them coming.

This is kind of bittersweet. But with two fantastic leads taking you through the course of the story, you’re in for a good ride. Maybe don’t watch this before going to bed or if you’re already feeling down. But do watch it – no regrets promised!