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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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Slip Inside the Eye of Your Mind

  • Apr 15, 2004
  • by
Pros: Carrey, Wilkinson, Ruffalo, Dunst, Wood, funny, thought-provoking, visually dazzling

Cons: Winslet (at times), plot holes

The Bottom Line: This is the last time I'll forget you / I wish I could... This review is rambling, but so is the film.

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

When my cousin was a baby, he tried to pick up a football that had been sitting in the sun all day and burned his hand. For years after this incident, he wouldn’t touch that ball even if it was inside a cool house. Toddlers know not to make the same mistake twice, so why do adults, in searching for love, throw themselves into the same concrete walls time after time?

Love hurts, and people often say that the first breakup is the most painful. When a relationship ends, the injured parties often moan, “I’ll never feel that way about someone again.” But, eventually, the agony fades, and most people fall in love again, maybe a bit more cautiously, but they still open themselves up to be hurt once more.

The body naturally forgets pain in order to go on. I remember, on several occasions, when love has gone wrong, thinking, “Wow, I had forgotten how much it hurts.” I know that I’ve been injured, but my body doesn’t remember what it really feels like.

Impulsive Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) can’t wait for this natural amnesia to kick in following her breakup with Joel Barish (Jim Carrey). She wants to expunge all memory of their defunct relationship from her mind. When Joel runs into Clementine, he is confused and hurt that she ignores him so completely. It’s as if she has no idea who he is. Mutual friends eventually confess that Clementine has hired Dr. Howard Mierzwiak of Lacuna, Inc.* to erase Joel. Horrified and upset, Joel decides to undergo the procedure himself.

Charlie Kaufman’s brilliant script is taut and full of witty one-liners and intriguing details that make you want to see the film again. At the same time, it’s vague and bizarre enough to be open to several interpretations. If you see this with a group of people, everyone might take something different away from it. My friend Katy, who has an interest in Buddhism, saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as illustrating the cycles of samsara. The title, taken from an Alexander Pope poem, does sound like a description of nirvana.

I have read comments from some optimists who refer to Clementine and Joel as “soulmates,” and the film has been marketed as a love story. However, I believe that ES of the SM shows us how most people fall into self-destructive patterns that they follow throughout their lives.

When Clementine raises her coffee cup to acknowledge Joel in a Long Island diner, he thinks, “Why do I fall in love with every woman I see that shows me the least bit of attention?” Because that’s his tragic pattern. We all have them.

Joel (a refreshingly understated Carrey) is an everyman type of character. He has an unspecified job that’s undoubtedly boring, and his mild neuroses are nothing out of the ordinary. Similarly, Clementine is generically eccentric. She dyes her hair bright colors, the order of which provide the viewer some clues as to when and where we are in the disjointed story. It was probably a poor choice to cast the English Winslet in this role, as I felt the effort of maintaining an American accent prevented her from expressing herself. Fellow Brit Tom Wilkinson is flawless as Dr. Howard Mierzwiak, however. I also thought the Kaufman should have made Clementine slightly less irritating. She is endearing for a few brief moments, but I certainly wouldn’t want to go out with her.

Kaufman and director Michael Gordry take the viewer on a dizzying ride through Joel’s mind filled with quick cuts and jumps in time. Gordry’s music video style works well here, as the film flits back and forth between reality, fantasy, memory, and nightmare, dragging us through a spectrum of emotions. The supporting cast of memory-erasing technicians from Lacuna, Inc. (Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood) and the receptionist at Lacuna (Kirsten Dunst) are wonderful. Kaufman treats us to the best drug scene since Meryl Streep’s imitation of the dial tone in his Adaptation as Stan and Mary (Ruffalo and Dunst) smoke pot and jump around on Joel’s bed in their underwear.

Like most films about altering history, Eternal Sunshine leaves us with the impression that it’s a mistake to use technology to try to change the past. (Back to the Future, anyone?) By erasing a relationship, one forfeits any lessons or personal growth gained along the way along with all memories, good or bad. Even if it ends badly, there are always some happy recollections hidden amongst the tears and bickering. No matter how catastrophic a partnership is, one almost always gets something out of it. Maybe Tom cheated on you, but at least he introduced you to a cool, indie band. Bob’s whining and indecisiveness was really irritating, but he did teach you how to drive a stick shift.

Here is where the holes in the plot/concept become apparent. You could easily forget a one-night stand, but erasing a long-term relationship would leave months or years of your life unaccounted for. Also, if you love someone, the idea of him/her is pervasive. If you think about your boyfriend while you’re at work, is the time when you’re behind your desk a memory of your lover or of your occupation? What if you have a rebound fling before erasing your ex?

Despite these fundamental flaws in logic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a highly enjoyable and engrossing film. Walking down the street in the rain after leaving the cinema, I just kept saying, “Wow, that was crazy” over and over again. It blew my tainted mind.

* Check out


Video Occasion: Good Date Movie
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
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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 . 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 . 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 . 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 …
review by . June 27, 2004
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 …
review by . October 24, 2004
posted in Screen Gems
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is one of those movies that's one can't say enough about, but it's also so very easy to say too much. What I say about likely won't capture what makes it so utterly charming and inescapably honest.    There's the standard stuff -- the performances, for example, are uniformly excellent. Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey deliver what may well be the finest performances in their careers for this film, and Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood, …
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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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