Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Review Date:
Director: Michel Gondry
Writer: Charlie Kaufman
Producers: Steve Golin, Anthony Bregman
Jim Carrey
Kate Winslet
Kirsten Dunst
A man visits a memory-erasing clinic after getting dumped by his girlfriend and finding out that she deleted him from her memories via this new scientific method. Halfway through the process himself, the man starts to think twice about getting rid of his ex-lover’s memories and attempts to circumvent the procedure. One F’d up film ensues…
Yet another cinematic mindfuck courtesy of the man behind the weed, Charlie Kaufman, of BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and ADAPTATION headgames fame. Chances are that if you appreciated Kaufman’s previous works, you’ll likely enjoy this one as well, complete with relationship issues, manipulations of the mind, strange circumstances, odd characters and an emotional core to which a willing audience could relate. I was really looking forward to this movie, mostly because of its intriguing concept about a person deleting a past relationship’s memory from their mind, in order to relieve themselves off the added anguish caused by a break-up. I loved the concept because, much like anyone else, I’d been through a rough break-up myself and theoretically would likely not have minded such a process, at my worst of times. My biggest problem with this film was that despite a great set-up, brilliant acting by both Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet and a complex, but believable, integration of this sci-fi operation, things got a little too “technical” about halfway through the film, losing me as a willing, emotional participant in the lead character’s turmoil and turning me into more of a passenger watching a film about an average Joe attempting to escape his fleeting memories. Essentially, things got a little too redundant, focusing more on the actual erasing of the past, rather than the overall, more intriguing concepts (at least to me) of destiny, the necessity of one’s memory, the idea of knowledge from experience and a little something we call love. Things did pick back up once the whole memory erasure was resolved though, with the characters attempting to come to terms with what happened.

Of course, the best part about the film is its creativeness, its ability to nix your generic look at break-ups, relationships and memories, and take a novel approach to it all, including “professionals” using computers to wipe your selected recollections, entire segments of the film dedicated to Carrey’s character conscious of himself inside his own memories (you heard me), flashbacks galore, some of which are related to the process of deletion, others which provide the audience with further insight into the couple’s initial sparks, as well as number of visual tricks that make the whole thing fun to watch. Jim Carrey is also superb and handsomely restrained as the morose, introspective lead who suddenly finds himself wondering if he’s made a mistake or not. Kate Winslet is also a delight as the spry, multi-colored ex-girlfriend (incidentally, she looks stunning in any color hair) who finds herself in a confused emotional whirlwind of her own. I was also happy to discover that many of the secondary characters were somewhat developed, especially Kirsten Dunst and Mark Ruffalo, both of whom came through and appropriately enough…smoked weed. I wish there had been a little more focus on fate and all of its ramifications though or my personal favorite “break-up” question mark dealing with the idea of missing someone as a “concept” or as an “actual person”. That’s when a period of time has passed after a break-up and one still finds themselves dreaming or thinking about their ex-, when in reality, they may, in fact, have gotten over the person, but not the actual “idea” of that person (someone to hold, someone to talk to, etc…)

It’s interesting how many broken-up people will see their exes after a while and realize that they actually don’t even like or miss the actual “person”, but that the concept of that person and their shared memories, were the actual pieces missing from their lives. If you can relate to those last statements, I may have a screenplay for you. In this case, the film did a great job of not confusing matters too much, although it takes a while to get used to what’s happening, and of relating certain insights about the human condition, the separation between mind and heart, as well as plenty of fuzzy-lovey-dovey memories of days gone by. Despite the experiences of the folks in the film being invariably different from our own, I think the movie did a great job of providing cues into moments that most of us would likely have gone through as well (drawings, sayings, mementos, songs…I especially loved Carrey’s highly dysfunctional married friends handing him advice) The film’s final scene was a little disappointing and not as emotional or resolute as I’d hoped, but I think it might be one of those bits that I might appreciate on a second go-around. The film is not for everyone, it doesn’t follow a straight line, it gets a little pretentious and arty-farty at times, and definitely gears into the realm of the esoteric rather than the tangible, but I like stuff like that sometimes and if you too are looking for something a whole lot different than 50 FIRST DATES as a romantic movie date alternative, you’re likely to appreciate this movie as well. PS: I know I’m over my ex-girlfriend, but am I not supposed to find irony in the fact that I saw this movie on the same date as her goddamn birthday?! You gotta love life.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian