'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'

‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’

“Memory is the source of sorrow, pain, joy, regret, and life itself in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which, today, on its tenth anniversary, remains that rare high-concept romantic comedy to understand love in all its alternately amazing and ugly forms,” begins Nick Schager, writing for Esquire. “One of the decade’s truly original heartbreakers, Michel Gondry’s 2004 film nabbed its screenwriter Charlie Kaufman a Best Original Screenplay Oscar, inspired countless works of melancholic whimsy—be it the meta-mushy Stranger Than Fiction, the musical (500) Days of Summer, or this past winter’s ode to techno-love and longing, Her—and, in Kate Winslet’s hair-dying Clementine, helped set the cinematic template for the legion of quirky, Zooey Deschanel-ish Manic Pixie Dream Girls to come.” At Flavorwire, by the way, Alison Herman argues that ESOTSM is a “rebuttal” to that notion, “a critique of a trope that wasn’t yet a trope.”

But back to Schager for a moment: “The story of a man who, in retaliation for his ex-girlfriend using a service that erases unwanted memories, attempts to permanently blot all traces of her out of his mind, it’s a portrait of the way passion fades, the desperate desire to avoid suffering, and the fundamental role that shame and misery play in the construction of the self—and one that’s made all the more poignant for its ability, amid sadness, to locate genuine hope.”

“I hadn’t seen the film in about 8 years,” writes Nathaniel Rogers, who now finds it “moving in performance (career best work from Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey and a pitch-perfect supporting cast) and fascinating in its premise, looping structure and mirrored ideas… But it’s in the realm of the visuals where Michel Gondry and DP Ellen Kuras bring it all together with imagination, verve and an entirely bold and unusual use of light and focus.”

Writing for the Examiner, Brian Zitzelman suggests that “it would make sense that the film would feel dated. There are scenes of employees tapping away on keyboards while wielding advanced computer programs, cars crashing from the sky onto sidewalks and memories within dreamscapes devolving.” But: “It all feels as if it was filmed today.”

“When I revisited Eternal Sunshine last month,” writes Vulture‘s Kyle Buchanan, “I expected the tempestuous relationship between Carrey and Winslet to take on new significance now that I’d had ten years to accrue romantic experience and heartbreak in equal measure. What surprised me, though, is how devastating I found Kirsten Dunst’s arc to be this time around. Her character is a sweet, open-faced 20-something with a crush on her boss that’s both long-nurtured (she’s collected some philosophical quotes that she hopes will impress him) and barely thought through (since her boss has a wife). When she finally makes a move on the man, he gives in, but is then forced to tell her that they’ve had this affair once before; in fact, it was so destructive that they had to wipe her memory of it. The moment that a disbelieving Dunst finds her intake tape and doubles over as she hears the experienced, tired, broken-down voice—her own—coming out of the recorder … well, it’s positively brutal. It’s a past she’s forgotten she lived and positive proof of a future she can’t believe she’d ever succumb to. Her now-lost naïveté was a young person’s shield, keeping the compromises to come at bay. And it makes the final scenes between Carrey and Winslet all the more poignant.”

“Over time and countless subsequent rewatches, it grew with me, or more accurately I grew with it, but it’s now almost impossible to separate the film’s own virtues for the way it entwined itself in my life in the years to follow,” writes Oliver Lyttelton at the Playlist. “Eternal Sunshine is probably alone among the films that shaped my love life by doing it for the better. Eventually, anyway.”

“The crux of the film comes at the end, as Joel and Clementine, both aware of their past relationship and the problems that caused its downfall, decide to give it another try,” argues Jonathan Reader at the Diamondback. “Clementine argues that Joel will grow to hate her and she’ll grow to find him boring because that’s what they do and that’s what they’ve already done. It’s Joel’s response that seals it. ‘OK.’ … Its impact has stayed with me and many others for years. Joel and Clementine will continue to fall in love, to break up, to erase each other and to get back together again, perhaps forever. That’s what they do, and that’s what they’ve always done. OK.”

“It’s both joyous and quietly devastating, often in the same scene,” writes Kip Mooney at Screen Invasion. At Moviefone, Gary Susman lists “25 Things You Don’t Know About the Mind-Bending Romance.” And Christopher Rosen talks with Winslet about ESOTSP for the Huffington Post. Kristi Mitsuda wrote up the film when it landed at #11 on Reverse Shot‘s best films of the noughts. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind screens in New York on March 31 as part of the BAMcinématek series Science on Screen.

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