In the mind of Charlie Kaufman, anything usual is never to be
expected. The scribe’s latest mental journey provides no
exception to the rule. At once full of happiness and laughter with
an almost unbearable weight of sadness, “Eternal Sunshine of
the Spotless Mind” balances a tightrope of emotions to the
perfect effect. Michel Gondry’s sophomore directorial vision
shows us what it means to forget and, more importantly, the joy of
creating memories in the first place.
Taken from the twisted mind of Kaufman, who wrote such quirky
scripts as “Being John Malkovich” and
“Adaptation,” “Eternal Sunshine” is the
latest film to employ temporal exploration, and it does so in
probably the most unique and intricate of fashions thus far.
Jumping back and forth between reality and imagination, dream and
memory, Gondry seamlessly depicts a man having his memory slowly
That man is Joel Barish (Jim Carrey). Recently separated from a
turbulent relationship, Joel discovers that his ex, Clementine
(Kate Winslet), has had her memory of him completely erased.
Heartbroken and confused, Joel decides to have the procedure done
As soon as the technicians (Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst and
Elijah Wood) begin to zap the entire map of Joel’s memory,
the plot splits into two worlds: that of the technicians inside
Joel’s apartment and the one inside Joel’s brain. Each
world starts to blend when Joel realizes he wants to remember and
begins fighting the process. From there, it’s a race to the
beginning of his memory.
Watching the relationship between Joel and Clementine evolve in
reverse chronology is simply amazing, but it becomes something
special when Joel’s memory of Clementine helps him fight the
erasure. Complemented by quickly fading shifts between each filed
memory, the evolution of Joel’s emotions from understanding
to desperation is palpable, and it seeps into the film’s
thematic fabric. The audience understands the importance of the
journey as the scenes blend together and the lights fade away.
Jim Carrey’s understated performance once again proves
just how good he can be, and Kirsten Dunst is perfectly delectable
as an unsuspecting office assistant to the procedure’s
overseer, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson). And while all of
the supporting roles are as colorful in their strangeness, the
truly outstanding performance comes from Winslet. Her impulsive,
manic-depressive character provides the heart of the film, and she
makes it impossible for Joel not to battle to remember.
Everything clicks, and Kaufman nails the third act perfectly.
Handheld camera and jump-cut editing accompanied by an almost
tangible score complement the intricacies necessary for the
inverted timeline. If there is any basis for complaint, it’s
that the viewer might have to sit through the film a second time to
discover the details missed in the first viewing.
It’s an emotional roller coaster, but the ride is worth
taking. More accessible than any of the other Kaufman screenplays
and supremely complemented by the cast and director, the fusion of
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is nothing
short of captivating.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars