Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst
Director: Michel Gondry
“When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a medical procedure to have each other erased from their memories.”(IMDb)
»Currently streaming on Netflix«
What to Expect
Jim Carrey shy and introverted
Ramona Flowers hair
Falling backwards in love
Why You Should Watch It
Eternal Sunshine takes an inventive cinematic approach in depicting how memories fade away, using them to tell a bittersweet love story that traverses every stage of a relationship. The Charlie Kaufman-penned screenplay doesn’t lend itself to impassioned declarations or grand gestures in the name of Love, but rather small moments which, added up, serve as a reminder as to why it’s worth the risk. It’s cute as hell.
Must See! (A)
If you need help getting your bearings in this convoluted film, just look to Clementine’s (Winslet) hair. When she first meets Joel (Carrey) she has green hair. As they are falling in love, her hair is red. Towards the end of the relationship, Clem matches her name and goes orange, and after she wipes Joel from her memory she becomes blue-headed. A useful visual cue for a story about falling in love from a reversed perspective.
Although we have yet to obtain the technology to literally erase people and memories from someone’s mind, Eternal Sunshine does a fair job speculating how it could be done. The parts of Joel’s brain triggered when he thinks of Clementine are mapped out, family and friends are notified to never speak of the erased again, and the procedure is done at home so the patient can wake up in their bed without any idea of what happened the night before. The process of erasure felt very accurate as well. Memories were confounded with each other, sometimes faces were clear but words were fuzzy and vice versa. Some scenes were dark around the edges, only focused on what the person was saying or doing. The lingering emotions were the best part, though. In one tender scene, Clem confesses her worries about being ugly to Joel, and he comforts her while they are under the bedsheets. The Joel observing this memory mentally pleads with his captors to keep the moment, but he is helpless to stop it. Clem disappears and Joel is left searching for her in the sheets. The memory is gone, but he remains distraught. Like the confused, blue-haired Clementine, he knows he has lost something, but he isn’t sure what.
The company performing the procedure was appropriately named: Lacuna, meaning a blank space or missing part, realized through Joel’s memories as signs, books, and Clementine’s name became blank and empty. Considering Lacuna’s doctor admits the procedure technically is brain damage, the name is likely also a reference to a lacunar infarct, a common type of stroke.
The subplot between Mary (Dunst) and the doctor was a great way to underline the idea that you can erase memories, but you can’t erase someone’s attraction to another person. As mismatched as Joel and Clementine were, they were drawn to and complemented each other’s personalities. Even if they hadn’t met in Montauk, if they’d seen each other on the street somewhere they probably would have had that same attraction. Them both ending up in Montauk suggests that Clementine had a similar experience with her memory erasing, and tried to hold on to Joel as he was being taken from her.
The message taken from Alexander Pope’s quote, “eternal sunshine of the spotless mind” (aka ignorance is bliss) sounds a little bleak at first. It appears to be suggesting that Joel and Clementine would be better off if they had never been together, because of all the grief they eventually caused each other. But the title turns out to be misleading. Even when they’re hearing their own voices talk about how horrible the other is, they are still willing to give it a chance despite knowing how it will end. For them, the beauty of falling in love outweighs the ugliness of falling out.