Director: Michael Gondry
Stars: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson
In my eyes, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the greatest films of all time. Just as Joel Barrish (Jim Carrey) does so, a part of me wishes I could wipe my own memories so I could watch this masterful film without knowing what happens.
Eternal Sunshine is a complex and story about the uncertainty of personal identity, reality, memory and love. It follows reclusive Joel, who meets his opposite, the free-spirited Clementine (Kate Winslet) and they quickly fall head-over-heels for each other. After some difficulties in their relationship, Clementine undergoes a procedure to erase all her memories of Joel. Upon discovery, an angry Joel decides to do the same thing, but immediately regrets his decision, which leads to a mind-bending venture through Joel’s subconscious.
The film’s script was written by Oscar nominated screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, and I often wonder how he comes up with such unique and incredibly original ideas. He made his name from writing the script of Being John Malkovich (1999), a film directed by Spike Jonze. It is a film that shares much of the same quirky tone and intrigue of Eternal Sunshine. Kaufman’s work requires a certain taste and while Eternal Sunshine will not appeal to everyone, I can honestly say it is a film that gets better with repeated viewings.
Firstly, it is a tad confusing as most of the film takes place inside Joel’s head, as he fights for his memories of Clementine. Also, the film has an unconventional non-linear narrative, which offers multiple interpretations. One of the things you will learn when from Eternal Sunshine is that Jim Carrey does actually have genuine talent. He drops his goofy faces in exchange for something deeply felt. The man can really act and his performance is better than any of his comedic roles.
Some viewers may find it difficult to take Carrey seriously, as he is so entrenched in his comedic roots. But not only has he diverged from comedy, but into a film with elements of fantasy. The film essentially imagines a world where there are special doctors who orchestrate procedures, which can erase large portions of the memory. The Lacuna Inc organisation acts in response to people who want to completely forget about their partners after a break-up.
The film starts with a pretty slow pace, but there is always that sense of mystery and intrigue that keeps you watching. The slow and stagnant build-up at the beginning is in tune with Joel’s dull and isolated lifestyle. It is only after Joel meets the energetic and impulsive Clementine that the film starts to pick up speed. But the film really gets underway when Joel fights back for the memory of Clementine against her impending erasure from his mind.
The film is visually excellent as Gondry navigates through Joel’s repressed memories and traumas. The Journey within Joel’s subconscious plays out a bit like a psychological thriller. Eternal Sunshine is a mash-up of genres, which makes the film so ambitious and original. The film also have lots of humour.
Also, important to the story are the people working at Lacuna Inc, such as Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) and Stan Fink (Mark Ruffalo), but most especially Kirsten Dunst’s character, Mary Svevo. Her own arc is revealed in surprising fashion. This assemble supporting cast all get their moments in the spotlight, as well as a surprise appearance from Elijah Wood. The characters are particularly memorable in this film and Kate Winslet as Clementine, is probably one of my favourite characters from any film. She is such a well-developed, detailed and an utterly lovable character.
I am yet to see a film that captures relationships so authentically and engagingly as Eternal Sunshine. In a film that comes across initially as quite downbeat and gloomy, has an undertone which is incredibly romantic and poignant. I would not describe the film’s overall tone as sombre, as it has a mixture of happiness and sadness. It ultimately projects some very thought-provoking messages about the meaning of life, and questioning whether we are in control of own destinies. But also, stressing the importance of holding onto to our most sacred memories. It must be said that this film is quite challenging, but it is simply remarkable.
Overall: Gondry’s film is a must-watch, and if you have an admiration for all things quirky and unconventional, you’ll love the film as much as I do. The level of detail in the story is something you won’t find in many other films. Crucially underappreciated, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a classic.
(I wouldn’t recommend watching this trailer, because it’s a very poor representation of the film!)
Quoted: “How happy is the blameless vessel’s lot, the world forgetting but the world forgot, eternal sunshine of the spotless mind…”
Writer: Charlie Kaufman
Distributor: Focus Features
Run Time: 108 minutes