Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – Michel Gondry


The 101 Sci-Fi Movies brings me this fantastic film to revisit, and what a beautiful film.

I’m not always a big Jim Carrey fan, but it’s films like this, that show me that he really does have some acting chops, and isn’t just a physical comedian.

With a script by Charlie Kaufman, for which he won an Oscar, from a story by director Michael Gondry, Kaufman and Pierre Bismuth, the film is stunning, emotionally wrenching, and filled with love and hope.

The entire film takes place almost entirely within quiet, introvert Joel Barish’s (Carrey) mind. Reeling from his break-up with the impulsive Clementine (Kate Winslet), he learns that to get by, she has been to a company known as Lacuna, and had all of her memories of him erased.

Hurt, and unable to deal with the fact that he still loves her, he decides, after chatting with Doctor Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), to undergo the procedure himself. That night, while drugged, the cleaners in the persons of Stan (Mark Ruffalo), his girlfriend Mary (Kirsten Dunst) and Patrick (Elijah Wood), come and begin the task of erasing Clementine from Joel’s life.


The memories are erased, even as Joel is reliving them, and he begins to realize, this is not something he wants to lose. He wants to hold onto the memories, no matter what they are, joyful, painful, he needs them.

So with Clementine in tow, he wanders off the map, and into the deepest memories of his mind, hoping to keep the last memory of her alive.

The film is beautifully shot and acted, watching the memories be erased is brilliant as words, faces, people all disappear as the cleaning takes place. You hope that somehow Joel would be able to hold onto one tiny piece of Clementine, but it seems inevitable that she’ll be taken from him.

Especially when Patrick is already using all of the things he’s ever said to Clementine on her himself. That has to be a violation of ethics!

But Joel keeps fighting, longing to hold on, accepting Clementine even with all of the faults they see in one another, wanting her because of them in fact.


There are some very funny moments, like when Joel takes Clementine all the way back to his childhood, and he’s playing under the table as a four-year old. But this moment, and others never get away from the film, and definitely do not ruin the emotional arc of it. It simply shows Joel sharing as much of himself, even embarrassing things, to keep Clementine with him.

And isn’t that part of what a functioning relationship is about, sharing intimate details with one another, the good and the bad?

I love this movie, the ending makes me smile, though the repeated sequence as it fades to white makes me think…

But I love the fact that through all of this, the things they’ve forgotten and relearned about one another, keep bringing them back together. That they both believe there is something there, something special, worth living and yes, even suffering for.

It’s a visually beautiful film, wonderfully crafted, perfectly acted, and with a human heart beating at its core.

What did you think of it?


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