Jim Carrey ditches the goofy faces and plays it straight in this imaginative, loopy, psychological romance story. There are very few films that I cherish more than Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Years on and it’s still one of the best films I’ve seen and in my top five of all time. Writing a review of a film that’s so insanely good, it’s hard to know just where to start.
This film imagines a world where removing large portions of your memory is possible. It’s a complex story about the uncertainty of personal identity, reality and love. It follows reclusive Joel (Carrey), who begins a relationship with free-spirited Clementine (Kate Winslet), a woman he meets randomly one day. When their romance starts to crumble, Clementine has her memories of Joel completely wiped.
Joel is a broken man when he realises his long-term girlfriend doesn’t even recognise him, so he decides to do the same thing. In doing so, he immediately regrets his decision. This leads to a mind-bending venture through Joel’s mind, as he fights for the memories of Clementine.
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 the same quirky tone and intrigue of Eternal Sunshine. Kaufman’s work requires a certain taste and while Eternal Sunshine isn’t for everyone, I can honestly say it that gets better with repeated viewings.
Firstly, it is a tad confusing as most of the film takes place inside Joel’s head. Also, the film has an unconventional nonlinear narrative, which offers multiple interpretations. One of the things you will learn from Eternal Sunshine is that Jim Carrey does actually have genuine talent. He really can act and his performance is way better than any of his comedy.
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. I mean, this is a film where special doctors orchestrate memory removal procedures. 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’s only after Joel meets the energetic and impulsive Clementine that the film starts to pick up speed. It really gets underway when Joel’s battle to save his memories ensures.
The film is visually excellent as Gondry navigates through Joel’s repressed memories and traumas. The Journey within Joel’s sub-conscious plays out a bit like a psychological thriller. Eternal Sunshine is a mash-up of genres, which makes the film so ambitious and original.
Also, the people working at Lacuna Inc are important to the story. This includes Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), Stan Fink (Mark Ruffalo), and Kirsten Dunst’s character, Mary Svevo. The supporting cast all get their moments in the spotlight, as well as a surprise appearance from Elijah Wood. The characters are really memorable 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 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’s simply remarkable.
This is an essential watch. 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. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the greats.
(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…”
Director: Michael Gondry
Stars: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson
Writer: Charlie Kaufman
Distributor: Focus Features
Run Time: 108 minutes
Have you seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section!