Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Directed by Michel Gondry
Joel Barish, heartbroken that his girlfriend underwent a procedure to erase him from her memory, decides to do the same. However, as he watches his memories of her fade away, he realises that he still loves her, and may be too late to correct his mistake.
See more films
★★★★★ review by Katie on Letterboxd
Also! Remember love is dead and always has been, nothing matters and we're all going to die anyway. Happy Valentine's Day!
★★★★★ review by Adam Cook on Letterboxd
I’m not sure I have an all time favourite film but if I was pushed to pick one then Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind would be a strong candidate. It is such a wildly inventive and beautifully crafted film, both behind and in front of the camera, that it never fails to impress or surpise me, no matter how often I watch it.
Charlie Kaufman is the great screenwriter of his generation. His work is unique (even with a few imitators springing up), incredibly creative but also heartfelt and honest. It is the latter quality that elevates his scripts from being mere quirky curiosities to becoming the basis of some of the finest films of the past twenty years. With a CV that includes Being John Malkovich and Synecdoche, New York I do not say this lightly; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is his most complete work to date.
Michel Gondry is a great visualist but, as his own films suggest, he isn’t the best storyteller. Despite their less than stellar first collaboration (Human Nature), Gondry was an inspired choice to bring this story of fading, fractured and folding memories to reality. It is a visually dense and clever film using every in-camera trick imaginable to re-create the disintegrating memories of a man’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend and Gondry’s lo-fi sensibilities make it look unlike any other film.
As a springboard, erasing the memory of a past lover is a conceit rich with potential yet realising that potential is a far harder task. Kaufman and Gondry juggle the exuberant visual flourishes (street signs disappearing, houses folding in on themselves) with the personal and bittersweet drama of a faltering relationship. For a film about the death of a relationship, ESotSM is a very romantic movie. From the early tentative steps to the contemptuous conclusion, the film runs the gamut of emotions associated with a once passionate coupling. Yet the beauty in the story is the fact that, despite all the bad and toxic memories, Joel realises that the moments of genuine happiness (no matter how fleeting) are more powerful and important than never having experienced the bad times. Even in the end, when they both discover the confessional tapes and realise a relationship together will likely end in disaster, they are still willing to take that leap because those moments of love and connection are worth the risk of any eventual heartache. It is a genuinely romantic gesture and far more powerful than the traditional and cliche climax of the couple living happily ever after.
I can’t stand Jim Carrey’s gurning comic persona but here he is a revelation as the introverted and deeply conflicted man at the centre of the story. Kate Winslet’s Clementine may look like any typical indie romantic interest (changing hair colour, spontaneous and gregarious) yet she isn’t a perfect and unrealistic figure in the way Natalie Portman is in Garden State (I could have picked a hundred different examples), she is the opposite of Joel but she is as equally flawed. Kaufman even cleverly makes her virtues her greatest weaknesses and Winslet plays the character perfectly.
It is one of the few films that challenges the brain (both in the logistics of how shots are achieved and the intricacies of the plot) and moves the heart and for a film about erasing memories it is delivers an unforgettable experience.
★★★★½ review by brat pitt on Letterboxd
i love this movie but when i was 16 it inspired my high school ex bf who was really into film to manic pixie dream girl-ify me & treat me as a concept which im pretty sure is what this movie says NOT to do ......! please just let us "manic pixie dream girls" be ~quirky~ in peace!
★★★★★ review by DirkH on Letterboxd
Joy and pain are intricately linked in our lives. It is difficult to fully experience one without the other as, even though they are seemingly opposites, they are actually complementary, a thing this film understands really well and manages to convey in most unique and beautiful way possible. Through a simple 'What if?' story.
What if you could erase all those nasty memories? Would you do it? Would you want to get rid of people you don't like anymore, people that have hurt you? Without being pompous about it, this film tries to give answers to these questions and in doing so relates a strong message about human connection and human nature.
Most of us are social creatures, seeking interaction one way or the other. It is for many of us, I myself included, a necessity in life. I need that human connection in order to function. The problem is, however, that within these connections always lies the chance of being hurt, disappointed or other negative consequences. An as linked as I am to the people around me, so are these negative things linked to positive experiences. They are irrevocably connected and are therefore two sides of the same coin that make me what I am as a husband, father, teacher, human being.
What I find astonishing about this film is that Kaufman's script manages to have its main character experience and discover just that. In life the bad so often goes with the good. THis is essentially a kitchen sink wisdom which, if treated without the respect it deserves, could easily turn into a sappy made for TV film. But not so in the hands of two contemporary masters.
Kaufman does what he does best. Capture an aspect of the human soul in a story that seems grounded in reality but has absurd flashes of brilliance. It is almost as if he wants to say that man's attempts to come to terms with its own nature is an absurd feat in itself, a petty, selfish illusion. He is mild here for his protagonist as he does grant him some resolution in the end, but therein does not lie the true beauty of Kaufman's tale. It lies in the awakening of the protagonist, the opening of his eyes to the beauty of agony that is life and love.
There aren't that many directors that could portray the almost Escherian landscapes that comprise the memories and their subsequent erasing. And what I love about it is that the many visual tricks he pulls serve the story and not the other way round. The memories are a constant flux of images and flashes, never obfuscated and always resonant and important to the story arc.
Kate Winslet is a star and one of the best actresses around. You'd expect her to be good here and she is. This is, however, all about Carrey's performance for me. It is by far his best. It is subtle, introvert and very convincing. Not once ion this film was I watching 'Jim Carey Acting'. I was watching Joel, struggling to make sense of love lost and beauty found in his own murky mind. And it is a gorgeous thing to witness.
If ever you need an artistic exploration of human nature, love, life, connection and regret, look no further. Look here
★★★★★ review by jose on Letterboxd
depression is my only friend
- See all reviews