The Tragedy of a Doomed Romance

A review of Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Movie Poster of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Movie Poster of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

If you were given the chance to erase any painful memory, would you do it?  Every argument with your ex, every awkward conversation, every passionate spit in public.  But at the same time you would lose every smile, heartfelt gesture, every happy moment with that person would be gone.  Like it never happened.  That’s the question asked in Michel Gondry’s hopeless romantic comedy, paired with a small amount of science fiction

In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind a woman named Clementine (Kate Winslet, Titanic) gets a procedure to erase the memories of her  boyfriend Joel played by Jim Carry.  She decides to get this done after a particularly bad fight between the two of them.  When Joel becomes aware of this, he goes to get the same procedure.  As his memories are being erased, he becomes lucid and is forced to relive those memories.  As this is happening, he realizes that the relationship could be different and he fights against the procedure, trying to hide his memories of Clementine inside  other ones.  The movie explores the importance of communication within a relationship and highlights this idea by giving the audience a look into three different relationships mainly focusing on Clementine and Joel, Rob and Carrie, and a Doctor and assistant.

The actors selected for the roles are able to portray their characters in a genuine way that is convincing and natural.  Kate Winslet’s quirky comments and sporadic body language display the scattered mindset and impulsiveness of Clementine.  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was Jim Carry’s final attempt at an oscar nomination.  Carry portrays the awkwardness of Joel and his  insecurities with a mix of mumbling lines and passive aggressive comments throughout the movie.  Each actor deserves high praise for their performances and Winselt ended up winning an oscar for her depiction of the scatter-brained Clementine.  Winslet was able to show the audience her acting prowise by becoming Clementine.  She captured the essence and impulsiveness of the character as well as her crude and sporadic behavior.  The side characters in the film are also deserving of some spotlight.  David Ross plays Rob, one of Joel’s only friends in the movie who himself is in a turbulent marriage with his wife Carrie played by Jane Adams.  Rob is quite the opposite of Joel, being blunt and harsh when speaking with Carrie, clearly different from the soft spoken and reserved Joel.  Rob and Carrie are used to represent the possibility of becoming stuck in an aggressive and rough relationship, something that Joel is afraid of throughout the movie. 

Not only are the actors incredible in the movie, but the special effects for the time should not go unnoticed.  “Eternal Sunshine” often uses the imagery of the scene falling apart physically as a way to depict the errasal of a memory.  A standout scene in the movie shows Joel revisiting his memory of first meeting Clementine.  In this scene Clem breaks into a house to find some wine for the two of them.  In the real world Joel runs away from the home after she breaks in, but in the memory he stays this time.  The scene shows the beachfront house falling apart around them as they monologue to one another about their first time meeting.  As this happens sand falls from the ceiling and seeps up through the floorboards.  Waves and water push through the front door and Joel is left in an empty house waist deep in sand and water.  Another scene that comes to mind is when Joel is revisiting a time when he was a child,  playing in the rain.  The camera pans out to a full shot of the living room where it begins to pour in the small New York studio apartment.

The score to the movie is one that fits well with the tones and themes of the movie.  The soundtrack was composed  by Hollywood artist Jon Brion with some licensed songs sprinkled in, such as Something performed by the Willows and Mr Blue Sky performed by the Electric Light Orchestra.  The score, while not overwhelming and theatrical, is able to window dress each scene.  When a scene is goofy or light hearted the score matches, using wind instruments to keep the mood light.  While in serious  scenes there is either no music or somber strings in order to not overpower the scene.  The collection of licensed music allows the audience to feel immersed in the movie by being able to recognize the songs being played.  This makes the movie feel more believable because these are  songs that people have heard in our world.  

The ending of the movie alone is worth the price of admission.  It is one  that will leave you wondering what’s going to happen next and itching for maybe just another 10 minutes of run time.  It’s a fittingly special ending for such a special movie.  When the credits finally roll you’ll be wondering if you were given the chance to erase any painful memory, would you do it?  And when you turn it off I promise you it’s something you will not soon forget.  Ultimately I’d give Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 4.5/5 stars a must watch.