‘A couple undergo a procedure to erase each other from their memories when their relationship turns sour, but it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with.‘
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has been on my must watch list for a number of years, and now that I’ve finally seen it I find myself both happy that it exceeded all my expectations and sad that I won’t get to watch it for the first time again. I think this is a rather appropriate reaction to a movie that deals so well with the nature of memory as both a gift and a curse.
What are we without our memories? Wouldn’t life be so much simpler if we could erase all the painful moments from our lives, those embarrassing recollections that make us cringe whenever they crop up, the hateful things we hear and say? The movie inhabits a world where this is possible, just visit a clinic and lay out what you want to forget, and their specialists will do the rest.
Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) think’s that having the memories of his relationship with Clementine (Kate Winslet) is the only way out of the pain that he’s feeling over their break-up. All he has to do is go to sleep, and while he dreams all memories of Clementine will fade away, leaving him ready to move on with his life. But somewhere along the way, Joel realises that he’s throwing the good memories out with the bad. In the middle of the procedure, the full impact of what he’s actually doing hits him; he has to try to save something to avoid losing Clementine forever.
The following non-linear journey through Joel and Clementine’s relationship is both touching and heartbreaking. These are two damaged and insecure people who both love and hate their opposite natures. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship will find something that resonates with their own experiences, whether it be the little intimate moments or the bickering in-between, everything feels like we’re watching a real relationship. We’re along with them for the entire bumpy ride, and the visual design used to illustrate the disappearing memories really conveys the terrible nature of what’s happening to Joel.
In the world outside Joel’s mind, things aren’t smooth sailing either. The team that’s erasing Joel’s memory are having problems of their own. This subplot could have easily been mishandled and drawn away from the drama of Joel’s journey, but I found myself just as invested in their stories as I was in Joel’s. The reflection on the main story and focus on the morals of the story were both fascinating and moving.
Every one of the actors in the film gave a fantastic performance. Almost all of the actor’s are very well-known for a particular style of performance, but I never felt like I was watching the actors as opposed to characters. The chemistry between Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in particular was brilliant, I was really invested in their relationship. Kirsten Dunst (who I’ve never been the biggest fan of) also deserves special mention for her portrayal of Mary, the love-struck young receptionist who ends up playing a big role in everybody’s lives.
In case you hadn’t guessed, I loved this movie and I could rant on about it for some time. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. If only I could erase my own memory of seeing it so that I could see it for the first time again.
What I Liked – Everything. The performances were great, the story kept me hooked, and the visual design really sold the concept.
What I Didn’t Like – That I can’t watch it for the first time again.
Rating – 5 out of 5 (Awesome)