Favorite Films: ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’

Today is the 10th anniversary of one of my favorite films of all time, Michael Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Sadly when this film was released in 2004 I was 12 (sorry for making some of you feel old) and even though I was a very intelligent child, I did not see it in theaters. I do, however, remember the exact moment when I first saw the film: sophomore year of college in the suite I shared with my best friends. Some guys who lived upstairs brought their impressive DVD collection over and I sat crouched in front of the TV utterly hooked on what would easily become on of my favorite films of all time.

Eternal Sunshine is a film that completely captures what it is like to fall in and out of love; it is one of the truest representations of being in a relationship cinema has to offer. Is being in love worth the heartache when things end? Can you ever completely erase a person from your life? Is there such as thing as fate? Are we doomed to repeat our past mistakes? All these questions have very different answers based on your opinions about love and relationships in general because they inherently cloud your viewing of the film.  It’s funny because if you would have asked what the answers of those questions were for me a few months ago I would have completely different answers then I do now. But for the most part this film represents to me what the Eleventh Doctor once told Amy:

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.

You need the good memories because they make all the bad stuff worth it. For every silent dinner in a Chinese restaurant and drunken fight at 3 am there is laying on the Charles River and playing house in Montauk.

Regardless of what you think or what the film means to you, it still remains as fresh today as it was 10 year ago. Every single scene is a technicolor roller coaster of emotion with a story that weaves itself seamlessly through the past and present. We watch Joel and Clementine fall in and out of love and back again in a way that breaks your heart and gives you hope all at the same time. The scenes manage to feel torn out of every day life, even with the science fiction elements. These characters remind us of people we’ve known and loved; some of their traits we can even see in ourselves even if we don’t want to admit it. The best part is, they are

rounded, real characters. As much as I would love to be Clementine in some ways, she’s not perfect. She says so herself.  She’s angry and reckless and down right hurtful towards Joel sometimes. As Flavorwire so magnificently puts it: she’s NOT your Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Joel is flawed in his own ways too because he is hoping someone like Clementine will save him; he spends a lot of time blaming her for the problems in their relationship.

If you told me before I had seen this film that I would love a film starring Jim Carey and Kate Winselt, I would have said you were crazy, but it is true. There is no one else who can play Joel and Clementine. I like Jim Carey best when he is acting (see The Truman Show) rather than yelling and engaging in gag humor and silly faces. Kate Winslet manages to transform so completely into the character of  Clementine in what I think is one of

her best performances, even  with her ridiculously depressing Oscar winning Revolutionary Road.  I also have to mention Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, and Tom Wilkinson. The film could have easily centered solely around Joel and Clementine, but these other character add an additional depth to the overall story. What are memories that mean so much to one person to someone who hasn’t experienced them? There is more to these characters than meets the eye and their stories are integral and interesting to compare to our main characters. Dunst’s portrayal of Mary is especially notable because you are able to feel for Mary without pitting her.

If you haven’t seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind there is really no reason you should not go watch it the second you are done reading this. It is a film that manages to change my life every single time I watch it and despite always knowing what is going to happen at the end, I always wish for a different outcome. But as the film teaches us, isn’t that life? 

I haven’t been to Montauk yet, but I’m waiting for the right person to meet me there.



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