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A review for eternal sunshine of the spotless mind

Share via Email One to remember: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind "Sand is overrated," murmurs Joel, the hero of this comedy, who's goofed off work for the day to mope around the beach.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is suffused with Kaufman's unique charm, his existential drollery, his humane affection for the lonely and vulnerable. It's a very Kaufmanesque narrative experiment, technically ingenious and sophisticated. But it is also overcooked and frenetic, with some visual tricks and gimmicks repeated often enough to induce a diminishing return of novelty and effect. As in Adaptation, Kaufman has a depressed creative guy experiencing a nagging anxiety about the meaning of life.

Like Nicolas Cage in that film, he begins with a panicky, whispery voice-over about what the point of it all is, worrying away at his own discontents, which float meaninglessly out into the colossal placidity of the universe.

  • Gondry keeps a tight rein on Carrey, who gives one of his most digestible performances in ages;
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is suffused with Kaufman's unique charm, his existential drollery, his humane affection for the lonely and vulnerable.

He is Joel, played by Jim Carrey: One day he bumps into a beautiful young woman with dyed hair. Clementine Kate Winslet is a beguiling force of nature and poor introverted Joel falls hopelessly in love with her.

But then we cut to another, calamitous stage in their relationship.

  • But then we cut to another, calamitous stage in their relationship;
  • If he's thinking about a bookstore while pacing about an apartment, we see the bookstore in the apartment.

After their affair has gone sour, Joel finds Clementine is blanking him when they meet; it's as if they've never known each other. Then he finds out the awful truth. Clementine has had him erased from her memory by an experimental hi-tech firm wittily called Lacuna, which, despite the sensational service it offers, operates out of a bizarrely down-at-heel office almost as tatty as the one which had the portal into Malkovich's brain.

Here chief scientist Dr Mierzwiak Tom Wilkinson with his geeky assistants played by Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Kirsten Dunst, have painful memories lasered out of their unhappy clients' grey matter, and in a rage Joel demands that they perform the same service on him to forget Clementine. But he finds that he is strangely reluctant to relinquish his memories of the woman he loved, no matter how unbearably painful they are.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

It's a theme which Kaufman extends and syncopates with oodles of clever material. The title is taken from Pope, and Dr Mierzwiak's staff are enamoured of Nietzsche's paradoxes about how the strong man forgets what he cannot master: Moving on, getting closure, that is what the end of relationships is supposed to be all about.

Not dwelling or brooding or obsessing about why someone fell out of love with you. In the absence of marriage for life, serial monogamy is what people expect, and so they must cultivate the art of forgetting if these transitions are to be managed.

But oblivion offers peace at the cost of self-destruction, and Joel passionately feels that his unhappiness over Clem is part of his identity.

Oddly, one literary allusion that Kaufman doesn't turn up is Proust, whose narrator is told by Swann that should he move to a paradisiacal Pacific island, he would forget all about Paris.

That may be so, but it is frightening to imagine a future in which our current happinesses and unhappinesses will no longer exist. Gondry keeps a tight rein on Carrey, who gives one of his most digestible performances in ages.

  1. If he's thinking about a bookstore while pacing about an apartment, we see the bookstore in the apartment. One day he bumps into a beautiful young woman with dyed hair.
  2. Then he finds out the awful truth. In the absence of marriage for life, serial monogamy is what people expect, and so they must cultivate the art of forgetting if these transitions are to be managed.
  3. Not dwelling or brooding or obsessing about why someone fell out of love with you.
  4. He is Joel, played by Jim Carrey.
  5. Clementine has had him erased from her memory by an experimental hi-tech firm wittily called Lacuna, which, despite the sensational service it offers, operates out of a bizarrely down-at-heel office almost as tatty as the one which had the portal into Malkovich's brain.

But the director always insists on an excess of surreality by pedantically realising visually every strange detail of Joel's memory-angst. If he's thinking about a bookstore while pacing about an apartment, we see the bookstore in the apartment. If he's thinking about them on the beach while lying in bed, then we see them lying on a bed on the beach. All very wacky and Dick Lester-ish, like a grad-school Beatles movie, and for about five or ten minutes it's funny and exhilarating.

But it's over-extended, and tends to undermine the rigorous realism which made the idea funny. The resolution Kaufman offers reveals that, apart from everything else, there has been some playful jiggery-pokery in the time scheme and he follows this up with a further plot twist which, having appeared to restore Joel and Clementine's happiness, puts it in peril once again.

It's something which shows that for all his Lewis Carroll waywardness, there is something toughly real about this writer's world-view. I wish that some more tactful and less wired direction had been brought to his eccentric and delicate love story.