Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2004, USA
Director: Michel Gondry
Stars: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet & Mark Ruffalo
"Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders."
For the last two or so months i've been coming to terms with the deterioration of my first real relationship with my first real love and it really is such a weird state of mind to be in. I've seen thousands upon thousands of films thus far in my lifetime, many of which deal with love and how people fall in and out of it, and while I have always been able to appreciate and marvel at them as works of cinema as well as connect with them on an emotional level, I guess I could never truly connect to the ones that dealt with the pain and fallout of love because I had never really had that experience. I guess what I'm trying to say is that cinema didn't truly prepare me for the downfalls of life as much as I thought it did. That isn't a knock on cinema in any way, I wouldn't do such a thing to a medium that I hold so dearly, nor is it a knock on life. it's really just an observation. While i'm not so sure cinema can prepare you for pain of life, I do believe with all my heart that it can take the pain away, and it can change the way you see the world for the better. This has been the case so many times throughout my life, including today when, for the first time in 5 years, I decided to watch 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'. I have always thought of it as a wonderful film but today I was able connect on a different and much more personal level.
So many times throughout the last few months my mind has gone over and over similar thoughts such as what if I could erase this persons impact on my life? what if she never randomly came back into my life like she did? If I could forget her and everything she meant to me, would I? 'Eternal Sunshine' is a cinematic experience based on this fantasy. It proposes a world where you can erase the pain and heartache of relationships and past ties but at the same time it also erasing the happiness those those people gave you, and displays the messiness, the desperation and the ethical dilemma that a world like such would entail.
Only from the unorthodox and genius mind of Charlie Kaufman can a tale like this materialise, one of such complexities and intricacies, yet at the same time one of such humanity. It's one of those love stories that bucks the trend and creates its own meaning for what a love story should be, in the way that 'Annie Hall', 'Harold & Maude' & 'Before Sunrise' did before it. In my opinion, these are the kinds of love tales that appeal to me and the ones which I think should be cherished. There are countless examples of films use the same old romantic tropes and follow the same blueprint of what came before it, but only a certain amount of films can boast being able to turn the genre on its head and give a truly different and unique take on love and all its complexities, 'Eternal Sunshine' is most definitely one of them.
The collaboration of the visionary writer, Kaufman and the uniquely talented director, Michel Gondry, is one that boast striking results. Gondry's ability to tell a story through visual elements wonderfully coincides with Kaufman's ability to write a story that strays from the norm. 'Eternal Sunshine' would not be the masterful piece of work it is without either man.
Joel and Clementine are the film's central duo. Early and often did I notice similarities between myself and Joel and similarities between Clementine and my former significant other and in doing so is what made this viewing such a personal experience. I don't think this was a matter of me projecting my own experiences into the characters either, Joel's standoffish, quiet demeanour is a reflection of my own, and Clementine's free spirited and outgoing nature is a reflection of my former partner. It speaks volumes for Charlie Kaufman's writing abilities that he is able to write such humane and relatable characters even when writing such a world that differs from our own.
I've always liked Jim Carrey. Unlike my feelings towards of comedic performers that he is lumped into categories with (Sandler, Ferrell) I've always thought of him as an incredibly talented performer, in both comedy and drama. Some of his best performances, like in 'The Truman Show' & 'Man on the Moon', are the ones where he shows his knack for comedy as well as getting in touch with his dramatic side. While his performance in this film does feature comedic quirks, it's a more dramatic performance than he has ever given and it stands out to me as his very best. He is a movie star that is so in touch with his humanity and here he almost completely sheds the elements he is known for, giving an immensely relatable showing that stands out as one of the best dramatic performances in recent times. It's a performance that is filled with an immense of heart and meaning. His counterpart Kate Winslet, playing the complex and endearing Clementine, is obviously as brilliant as you would expect seeing that she is one of the finest actresses in the world today.
While reflecting on the film and writing this review, I have continued to ponder the question of whether or not I would be willing to erase my past relationship from my mind, letting go of the memories that were so special and meaningful when they happened but are so painful and full of heartache in retrospect. It's such a loaded question and concept that I doubt I will be able to answer it any time soon, but I guess that doubt is a sign that I wouldn't be able to go through with it, I'm not sure. What I am sure of though is that 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' is one of the most pivotal and brilliant love stories in recent memory and perhaps of all times. An endlessly brilliant, ingenious and meaningful piece of work from some truly incredible and talented human beings.