Strange Cinema: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

This is part of an ongoing review series for the films featured on 366weirdmovies.com‘s Certifiably Weird list. My goal is to watch and review all of them (even if it kills me). These reviews may contain spoilers.


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, & Tom Wilkinson

What’s it about?
After finding out that his ex-girlfriend had her memory of him erased, Joel Barish elects to have the same procedure, but as each memory of Clementine is erased, he realizes that the entire process was a mistake.

Is it any good?
Words can’t express how much I love this film. I first saw it when I was 13, and although it took a couple of viewings to fully understand, I was amazed by it. Eternal Sunshine is also one of the few films I’ve seen that can reduce me to tears every time I see it, which is quite a feat.

Before seeing this film, I was only familiar with Jim Carrey’s comedy career. I grew up watching him in movies like Ace Ventura: Pet DetectiveDumb and Dumber, and Liar, Liar, so seeing him in a serious role was quite a shock (this was before I got around to watching The Truman Show). But he’s not completely serious, which makes this role all the more enchanting. His character still finds humor in his situation, especially when confronted with the fun memories he shares with Clementine. But of course he gets emotional at all the right moments, and it’s actually believable. When he realizes his mistake in getting Clementine erased and he pleads with the people who can’t hear him (“Please let me keep this memory”)–I’m actually tearing up just thinking about this, to be honest.

Kate Winslet is also perfect in this film. Clementine is a great character because although she represents the manic pixie dream girl trope, she acknowledges how pathetic that fantasy really is and even reveals her own major flaws. She proves that the perfectly eccentric girl on the outside is just as fucked up as anyone else.

In fact, Eternal Sunshine is one of the very few films that shows a believable relationship. As Joel gets the memory procedure done, we see his relationship with Clementine in reverse, so the only things we know about them in the beginning are the things that caused them to drift apart. We see all their faults (Clementine has an uncontrollable temper exacerbated by her constant drinking, and Joel is just a pushover), and hear these characters vocalize the other’s faults in their recorded testimony. But by the time Joel reaches the sweeter memories of life with Clementine, the audience is rooting for them.

I’ve heard people complain about how difficult this film is to understand, but it’s really not that confusing. We’re not talking about Donnie Darko here (can’t wait to get to that review!). Eternal Sunshine is an unconventional love story with a reverse timeline. Director Michel Gondry, much like Terry Gilliam, is obviously obsessed with dreams and how the mind works. I hope I’m not alone in believing that Eternal Sunshine is his best film, hands down. Is it weird? Yeah, a little. But that’s probably why it’s one of the only romance films I’ve ever truly loved.

Grade: A (for knockout performances and a believable love story)
Weirdness Score: 7/10 (or, weird enough to make you think twice about forgetting your ex)

[Read the more in-depth 366 Weird Movies review here.]

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