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 wouldnt 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, Ill 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 Ive been injured, but my body doesnt remember what it really feels like.
Impulsive Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) cant 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. Its 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 Kaufmans 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, its 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 thats his tragic pattern. We all have them.
Joel (a refreshingly understated Carrey) is an everyman type of character. He has an unspecified job thats 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 wouldnt want to go out with her.
Kaufman and director Michael Gordry take the viewer on a dizzying ride through Joels mind filled with quick cuts and jumps in time. Gordrys 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 Streeps imitation of the dial tone in his Adaptation as Stan and Mary (Ruffalo and Dunst) smoke pot and jump around on Joels bed in their underwear.
Like most films about altering history, Eternal Sunshine leaves us with the impression that its 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. Bobs 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 youre at work, is the time when youre 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 www.lacunainc.com
Video Occasion: Good Date Movie
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age
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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. It opened in North America on March 19, 2004 and grossed over US$70 million worldwide.
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.