Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind review
The world forgetting, by the world forgot;
Joel Barrish is having a bad day. It's Valentines day, and he's got no-one to celebrate with, he doesn't seem to have written in his journal for years, and his car is dented.
On impulse, Joel skips work, boarding a train to Montauk instead. There he sees Clementine, a girl immediately noticeable due to her blue hair. They finally begin talking on the train on the way home, and eventually Joel offers her a lift to her apartment. She demands that he call her, and the second he reaches his own home, he does so, and after a short conversation, the two end up having a night picnic on the Charles River in Boston.
Shortly afterwards, the film goes straight to their break-up. After discovering that Clementine has had him deleted from her memory, Joel, heartbroken and angry decides to do the same to her. And so, he visits Lacuna, a company owned by Howard Mierzwiak, the man who created the technique involved in deleting specific memories.
The technique works as follows; The patient is asked to bring in every single item relating to the person they wish to forget. Their brain is scanned as they are shown the items, somehow building up a map of memories associated with the person the patient wishes to forget. That night, the patient takes a sedative, and then the technicians go to their home, and perform the procedure. The next morning, the patient wakes up, in their own bed, as if nothing had happened.
However, while his memories are being deleted, Joel reviews them over again, in backwards order. At first, as he sees the traumatic end of the relationship, he doesn't regret his decision. But then he starts to see their happier moments, and realises that, maybe, he doesn't want to lose Clementine completely. As he races through his own memories, trying desperately to find a way to salvage some of them, the audience sees more and more of why they were together, and why they broke up.
As Kate Winslet observes on the extra features of the DVD, this film is unusual since Jim Carrey is playing the straight character, while Winslet is playing the, for want of a better word, lunatic. Both manage this surprisingly well.
Carrey plays Joel Barrish, a rather quiet and introverted character. This is somewhat at odds with Winslet's slightly insane and impulsive Clementine, a girl who "applies [her] personality in a paste".
As they go back through their relationship, it's shown how the elements that drove them apart is what initially attracted them to each other. Although Joel eventually feels that Clementine's craziness and love of risks is more tiring than enjoyable, and Clementine feels trapped by Joel's safety, both of them began by liking those elements in the other.
Surprisingly, very few special effects were used in the film. Much of the surreal atmosphere of the inside of Joel's mind comes from unique sets and various physical tricks, rather than CGI or similar techniques. The visual effects, as Joel's memories erode, change, or simply collapse are done very well.
Although throughout much of the film, the dialogue and Joel's inner monologue rings true, the scenes, when Joel and Clementine meet and supposedly experience an instant attraction don't come off well. After having seen Before Sunrise, a film which handles instant attraction between strangers perfectly, this element of Etneral Sunshine is disappointingly wooden.
In summary, this is a great film. It's sad, and sweet, and despite playing around a lot with time manages not to be too confusing. It's romantic and funny, but deeper than a romantic comedy. It's sci-fi, but manages to stay somewhat believable. The ending is somewhat ambiguous; Before Sunrise, another film about relationships, was described a film that optimists could choose to believe ended happily, and pessimists, unhappily, and the same could be said of this.
Watch it with someone you love, and reaffirm your commitment to each other.
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