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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

A comedic romance film written by Charlie Kaufman, directed by Michel Gonfry, and starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet.

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We All Need a Few Clouds in Order to Feel

  • Jun 27, 2004
  • by
Pros: Acting, directing, plot-line.

Cons: Some rough patches in the script.

The Bottom Line: A thinking person movie to be sure…

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.

You never know what to expect from comedian, turned comedic actor, turned dramatic actor, Jim Carry (Peggy Sue Got Married - 1986, The Mask – 1994, The Truman Show – 1998, Bruce Almighty – 2003), or where the very versatile and talented Kate Winslet (Sense and Sensibility – 1995, Titanic – 1997, Quills – 2000, The Life of David Gale – 2003), will turn up next. Where, why the strangely titled Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, that’s where.

Written by noted screen writer Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich - 1999, Human Nature – 2001, Adaptation -2002), and directed by Michel Gondry (One Day – 2001, Human Nature - 2001, The Science of Sleep), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which takes its title from a quote by renowned 18th century English poet Alexander Pope is a strange, even absurd, yet ultimately appealing movie. The film which re-teams Kaufman and Gondry (Human Nature) and follows the antics of Joel Barish (Carrey), a New Yorker experiencing rough break-up, is a dark comedic/romantic romp, with some powerful, science-fiction undertones. And after some plot confusion ala Adaptation, and 21 Grams, is surprisingly enjoyable.

The Story-Line

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind opens on a chilly freezing, depressing, decidedly colorless Valentine's Day, as unassuming, innocuous, Joel and unpredictable, whimsical Clementine (Winslet) meet on a train to Montauk, NY after Joel decides, on a whim, to skip work. The two—seeming—strangers proceed to engage in a very strange conversation/ mating dance, which eventually finds them spending a rather delightful day and night together. And after this rather convulsed and awkward beginning, all appears well in their world.
But all is not as it appears, and after a while the film unwinds into a time after the acidic end of their relationship when Joel runs into passive-aggressive Clementine in a bookstore and she doesn't seem to recognize him at all; indeed she is in a dalliance with another. By chance—and to me completely unexplainably—he discovers through friends of his, that Clementine has undergone a drastic new medical procedure whereby painful memories related to a specific subject can be completely erased from the mind, as if they never really happened.

Distressed at being removed from Clementine’s mind, Joel pays a visit the doctor, who performed the procedure, one Dr. Howard Merzwiak portrayed by Tom Wilkinson (The Ghost in the Darkness – 1996, Shakespeare in Love – 1998, The Patriot -2000, In the Bedroom – 2001) of Lacuna, Inc., in a vain attempt to understand what has happened to his estranged girlfriend. However, once there, Joel rashly decides to have the procedure performed on himself as well, in order to erase his memories of failed relationship with Clementine, and the pain they have caused.

Merzwiak and his team—including technicians Stan portrayed with recognizable blandness by Mark Ruffalo (Safe Men -1998, XX/YY – 2003, In The Cut – 2003), Patrick, portrayed by a sideburn bearing Elijah Wood (Paradise – 1994, Flipper -1996, Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and secretary Mary portrayed with bubbly exuberance Kirsten Dunst (The Bonfire of the Vanities – 1990, Interview with the Vampire – 1994, Bring it On -2000, Spiderman -2002)—prep Joel in the office by taking him through him most recent memories and then hashes through the hideous breakup in graphic detail. The procedure continues in Joel’s apartment that night with just Stan and Patrick, but Mary who is dating Stan later shows up, and Patrick leaves to attend to Clementine, who he is no secretly seeing having rifled through her life with Joel.

Problems arise when the procedure start replaying memories that make Joel’s un-conscience mind remember why he feel in love with Clementine in the first place, and his mind rebels. His mind strays off the path, and he tries to hide memories of Clementine from the procedure, in different parts of his memory, “disappearing off the grid,” in an effort to halt a process that now cannot be stopped. He inserts Clementine into old thoughts in which she appears as his mothers and then bears witness to any number of long-repressed childhood traumas. Unable to completely handle the anomaly, Stan calls in Merzwiak who begins to track Joel and Clementine through the increasingly collapsing recesses of his mind. And in the process we learn that Mary has gone through the procedure as well…

Although director Michel Gondry comes from to us from the spastic, over energized world of music videos (directing videos Bjork and White Stripes), he doesn't let play on the visual aspects of the story, instead concentrating on the human interaction. In the hands, and mind, of a less-confident filmmaker, the surreal aspects of the story (mind control and erasure) might have overwhelmed the more realistic ideas; human frailty and the oft complicated rollercoaster of human relationships. For example, at first there is no observable demarcation between the real world of Joel and Clementine and the world of their memories. But then visual clues are interlaced throughout the film in order to clue us in that this is not normal, not exactly of this plain; e.g. the scene of Joel’s quietly disintegrating memory of a bookstore meeting with Clementine in which the title gradually disappears from book covers is absolutely evocative.

Both Carry and Winslet—who is one my favorite actresses—were riveting. Carry once again proves that his versatility as an actor should never be underestimated. And Winslet goes out on a creative limb reinventing herself once again the inhabit the role of loopy, eccentric Clementine without a hint of British in her speech, peppered as it is with enough profanity to make a sailor blush. Is it me or is Kirsten Dunst wasting away, physically? Earth to Kirsten: eat something!

In the finally analysis the title, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, start to gel and make sense. For those us who have lived, and loved, and learned, our minds are forever clouded with the disarray of life. And, in order to be fulfilled, to matter, to feel, the spotless mind is one better left to heaven.

Rated R (violence, profanity, vulgarity, brief sex, drug use)


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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More Eternal Sunshine of the Spotle... reviews
review by . September 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     We remember a lot of good things in life; that, as I believe, is given. We remember because we want to, and because these are the moments that ultimately save us in times of doubt or depression. I have embraced the times; no matter how hard they may be. I've enjoyed myself plenty and am content, but those not-so-good memories will linger forevermore. They cannot be avoided; they can be forgotten, easily through healing and otherwise with at least a little …
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Dispite the craze of hipster kids who love this movie. It is still one of the greatest written films ever. Jim Carrey is amazing.
review by . June 27, 2010
.... Jim Carrey, I mean. He almost made me forget that he is eternally, recurrently, ineluctably "Ace Ventura, Pet Detective"! Almost, I say. He is a masterful actor, and he plays the sad sack Joel as plausibly as anyone could. But whatever slouch he adopts, whatever stubble covers his chin, he's still The Grinch, Loki, Truman, and above all Ace! Ventura! At some fundamental level of thespian craft, he fails. He needs the help of Dr. Mierzwiak to erase MY memories of his previous roles.    Kate …
review by . May 13, 2008
Movie Poster
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind explores the impact on life and love if we could decide to erase our physically and emotionally traumautic memories.  Specifically, the movie follows the relationship of Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) in the context of the availability and use of this memory erasing technology.    I don't want to spoil this brilliant movie, so I'm intentionally trying to stay light on the details.   I always use this movie …
review by . December 31, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
DVD cover (front)
From the brilliantly eccentric minds of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation) and visionary director Michel Gondry comes Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a romantic comedy that's unlike any other. The film's screenplay, which deals with familiar themes of reconciliation and redemption, is constantly surprising in the direction that it chooses to go. Kaufman and Gondry, who are themselves rather unconventional, avoid the clichés of both the comedy and romance genres.  The film's …
review by . September 25, 2007
When I first heard of this film it didn't interest me that much but after a number of recommendations I dove into it. Thankfully enough I found "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" an excellent romantic and intriguing comedy-drama about two people who don't truly realize they are in love until one loses the other. Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) is a lonely yet sweet man who is looking for true love and the ideal woman. His search ends when he meets Clementine Krucynksi (Kate Winslet), an energetic …
review by . October 18, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
The title of this film is taken from a poem written by Alexander Pope entitled "Eloisa to Abelard". Pope based his poem upon the lives of two real people who were involved in an illicit affair. The poem is written from Eloisa's point of view and illustrates the conflict the woman has between her deep love for Abelard and her devotion to God. The movie takes it's name from the lines, "How happy is the blameless Vestal's lot!/The world forgetting, by the world forgot./ Eternal sunshine of the spotless …
review by . May 10, 2005
It is, despite the Truman Show, still a bold move to cast Jim Carrey in any movie that doesn't require outrageous slapstick. Here, Carrey is not just required not to gurn, but to play the most anally retentive character in the film. As a concept, you would think, that would be madness. But, and with a surprising amount of ease, it works. Carrey is credible and likeable as the everyman Joel Barish. Just as Joel is believably uptight (bearish, even?), Kate Winslet's Clementine is believably flaky, …
review by . January 09, 2005
After eighty years of cinema, the film industry is running out of original ideas. There seem to be more and more remakes of old films, or recycled ideas, everyday. I find this loss of originality to be quite depressing. That's why I'm overjoyed to find that there is still some creativity in Hollywood today. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is a perfect example.    Jim Carrey stars as Joel, a man who one day discovers that his lover, Clementine (Kate Winslet), has had him …
review by . July 03, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
Eternal sunshine is a clever movie that explores the concept of memory being erased to remove unpleasant memories. The setting is a dreary, blighted area of Long Island NY and the beaches of Montauk, where the disrupted romance of the Jim Carrey & Kate Winslet characters begins. The story shifts back and forth in time as well as in and out of the mind of the Carrey character. The supporting cast includes Elijah Wood and Kirsten Dunst, with each supporting character playing an important role in the …
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Vincent Martin ()
Ranked #187
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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About this movie


The title is taken from the poem “Eloisa to Abelard” by Alexander Pope.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Theatrical release poster Directed by Michel Gondry Produced by Anthony Bregman
Steve Golin Written by Screenplay:
Charlie Kaufman
Michel Gondry
Pierre Bismuth
Charlie Kaufman Starring Jim Carrey
Kate Winslet
Kirsten Dunst
Mark Ruffalo
Elijah Wood
Tom Wilkinson
Jane Adams
David Cross
Thomas Jay Ryan Music by Jon Brion Cinematography Ellen Kuras Editing by Valdís Óskarsdóttir Distributed by Focus Features Release date(s) March 19, 2004 Running time 108 minutes Country United States Language English Budget $20 million Gross revenue $72.2 million

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 American psychological-drama film by director Michel Gondry. The film uses elements of science fiction, nonlinear narration and neosurrealism to explore the nature of memory and romantic love.[1] It opened in North America on March 19, 2004 and grossed over US$70 million worldwide.[2]

Gondry worked on the story with writer/director Charlie Kaufman and Pierre Bismuth, a French performance artist. Together, they won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2005, alongside a nomination for Kate Winslet for Best Actress that year. The film stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet and features Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood, Jane Adams, and David Cross.

The title is taken from the poem Eloisa to Abelard by ...

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Director: Michel Gondry
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: March 19, 2004
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Charlie Kaufman
Runtime: 1hr 48min
Studio: Universal Studios, Focus Features
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