Busted Halo
feature: entertainment & lifestyle
March 28th, 2004

Blessed Are the Forgetful

Love and Memory in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

 
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If you’ve ever had a relationship you wish you could forget, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind may give you a different perspective.

When introvert Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) meets extrovert Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), the ?opposites attract’ principle kicks in. Their coupling eventually turns rocky, so Clementine impulsively undergoes a new medical procedure that erases all memories of a specific person from your brain.

Joel is devastated?not just by Clementine’s rejection of him as a person, but by her desire to completely eradicate any knowledge of his existence. His knee-jerk reaction is to have the same procedure done on himself to take away the pain of lost love.

Head tripping
The bulk of the film then takes place in Joel’s brain. He views his relationship in Memento-style reverse and sees Clementine vanish from each instance. But reliving the past from the perspective of the present makes Joel realize that he cherishes some of these memories. His alternately exhilarating and exasperating relationship with Clementine added a spark to his humdrum life and helped him grow as a person.

Joel tries to outsmart the memory-expunging scientists and retain at least a piece of what he and Clementine once had. His bizarre, comical, and poignant inner journey leads him down a road of self-discovery that touches on issues of identity, love, and roads not taken.

Is a spotless mind really all that sunny?
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” highlights an interesting concept. Are you better off forgetting about people who are no longer part of your life?particularly if losing that relationship caused you a lot of pain?

After breaking up with a spouse or significant other, it’s a natural reaction to wish you’d never met that person. However, it’s the sum total of our experiences?the people we’ve met, the mistakes we’ve made, the successes we’ve achieved?that makes us who we are.

By erasing all memories of just one vital relationship, don’t we also destroy a part of ourselves? By erasing the pain, aren’t we also erasing the joy? If we can’t recall our mistakes, wouldn’t that make us repeat them? How many times does a two-hour movie leave you with so many thought-provoking questions?

The good, the bad, and the kooky
Jim Carrey is completely believable as anal-yet-lovable Joel, while Kate Winslet shines as the provocative, mixed-up Clementine. Their emotional connection drives the story forward and makes you care about the final destination of their relationship.

My primary criticism of the movie is that it occasionally gets too philosophical and kooky for its own good. (Of course, what would you expect from Charlie Kaufman, screenwriter of the head-trips Being John Malkovich and Adaptation.) By peripherally touching on so many life issues, it doesn’t offer a satisfying look at any of them except for the aforementioned plunge into memory.

Also, the storyline about the secondary characters seems pointless and annoying. They establish some depth during the final third of the film, but we could have used a better build up.

Overall, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an intriguing and entertaining way to spend two hours. If you like movies that give you something to talk and think about, put it at the top of your list.

 
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The Author : Tony Rossi
Tony Rossi is a writer/producer for various Catholic media and publishes the blog "The Intersection."
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