Reel Reviews

Film Reviews by a Real Person, Not a Critic

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Title: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Year: 2004
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Starring Cast: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet
Rated: R

Reel Reviews Rating:

What if you could erase painful memories from your mind? Is it possible to completely erase someone from your mind? What are the moral implications involved? These are some of the questions posed by this movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The basic story focuses on the volatile relationship between Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet). No members of a couple can be any more different than these two. Joel is quiet, reserved, and frankly, lacks any personality. Clementine is loud, obnoxious, impulsive, and an alcoholic. It’s not surprising that they break up.

When Joel learns that Clementine had undergone a procedure to have memories of him and their romantic past erased from her mind, he is thunderstruck and deeply hurt. So he decides to do the same thing.

There are two subplots involving the young employees (Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst, and Mark Ruffalo) and the doctor (Tom Wilkinson) at Lacuna, the medical facility that conducts the memory erasure, both of which reveal to overlap with the main story.

Now, this film was categorized as a romantic comedy. I remember commercials on tv that featured scenes from the movie while playing upbeat music. I thought too, that it would be a comedy. However, after having watched it, I think that it’s more of a drama. There are a couple of funny moments, but by no means is it a romantic comedy. Reliving both the happy and painful memories of an ex is not fun or funny.

I thought the acting was pretty ok. Jim Carrey was very different from what we’re used to seeing. In Eternal Sunshine he looks glum, depressed, and somber. Even his appearance was different. He looked old and craggy, with wrinkles down his face. I guess it adds to the feeling that this is an “indie”, non-Hollywood film. Kate Winslet’s Clementine is downright annoying. I guess she was trying to come off as being a free spirit and all that, but I didn’t like the character at all. However, I think that Winslet did a better job at this type of role than Jennifer Aniston did in Along Came Polly, though admittedly Aniston’s Polly is not supposed to be as erratic as Clementine.

This being a Charlie Kaufman film (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), Eternal Sunshine is simply weird and trippy to watch. First of all, the events don’t follow a straight chronological order. This alone isn’t a big deal since these days more and more films use this approach. Second, because much of the film takes place in Joel’s mind, there are heavy elements of fantasy and bizarre (but cool) scenes. Third, the film quality of Eternal Sunshine seems to have a raw and more realistic feeling to it. It’s not polished and smooth looking like typical Hollywood movies, where the actors are all airbrushed to hell. Like I mentioned before, Jim Carrey looks like hell. The younger actors still look pretty good though, like Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, and Kirsten Dunst.

There are lots of cool special effects employed to create the scenes in Joel’s memories. According to the IMDB, most were created using forced perspective, old fashioned lighting, editing, and props, much like in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I’m really not sure what to make of this film. I didn’t quite like it, nor did I dislike it. I think it’s mainly because I’m just not used to Charlie Kaufman’s style. In fact, I kind of felt the same way after watching Being John Malkovich. In both movies, the plot is really weird but cool, and you don’t really like any of the characters. I suppose though, that some people can relate to Joel, as someone who wants so badly to forget about a lost love that he literally has his memories of her erased from his mind.

That being said, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is not for everybody. Older folks may not like the jumbled timeline and the MTV-like cinematography. Some people may just be plain confused. But others may consider it an artistic film, and appreciate it for its unique plot.

I rented this movie because I had heard so many positive reviews about it. Now I’ve seen it, and I think one viewing is enough for me.

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January 16, 2006 - Posted by | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Relationships, Romance


  1. Another movie about memorie which may interest you is Memento. A thriller about someone with a short term memory loss seeking to avenge his wife’s murder. It will keep you guessing and intrigued until the very end. Actually, you might have to watch it a couple of times to fully understand it.

    Comment by Damon Z | January 16, 2006 | Reply

  2. Damon- Thanks, but I’ve actually reviewed it already πŸ™‚ See here.

    Comment by Toni | January 16, 2006 | Reply

  3. I saw Eternal awhile ago and it was definitely a one-timer. Very complex and unusual story, and I’m not sure I completely understood it with one viewing, but like you I don’t want to see it again. It’s pretty depressing, but well acted by Jim Carey. If you want to see the most annoying comedic actor in a drama (and prove he is a capable actor and not just a goof-off), this is the one to get.

    BTW, I’m renting Moulin tonight on your recommendation. I’ll let you know what I think.

    Comment by Photo Steve | January 16, 2006 | Reply

  4. Steve- You hit the nail on the head in saying that Eternal Sunshine is depressing. I don’t know why it was being marketed as a “comedy”, with the upbeat music used in commercials promoting the film. Just because it has Jim Carrey in this movie doesn’t make it a comedy. It’s primarily a drama.

    I have to admit that Jim Carrey did well in this serious role. Kate Winslet was annoying, but I liked that she improved her American accent in this movie. She kind of struggled a bit in Titanic, but she’s still definitely better than Ewan McGregor πŸ™‚

    Speaking of Ewan, hope you like Moulin Rouge πŸ™‚

    Comment by Toni | January 16, 2006 | Reply

  5. Speaking of Ewan again… DO NOT see/rent/whatever, The Island… it was horrible! Such a good premise ruined by really bad acting. I like Ewan, and he wasn’t too terrible in it, but Scarlet Johannson just S-U-C-K-E-D in it… (not bad on the eye in this one though…)

    I assume Steve Buscemi was just in it for a paycheck too, since his part was so menial…

    I could be slightly bias on this one, because I watched it on a red-eye flight from California to Florida… and then they showed it again on the way back… AND my iPod was running out of batteries… but still.. it wasn’t a good movie…

    Comment by J | January 24, 2006 | Reply

  6. J- actually, I did a review on The Island. My parents rented it over Christmas week and I watched it at their house.

    I agree that Scarlett wasn’t great in it (just eye candy, really) and Steve Buscemi’s talents were wasted as well, but I didn’t think it was that bad- as long as you know it’s a Michael Bay movie.

    Comment by Toni | January 24, 2006 | Reply

  7. Perhaps the whole “watching it on a plane” experience ruined it for me… I am 6’4″ and I don’t really enjoy the seating on most airlines… unless I am in an exit row, on a Jet Blue flight, or have some how made it up to 1st class (which only happened once…)

    Comment by J | January 24, 2006 | Reply

  8. I get what you mean about being uncomfortable on planes because of your height. An old coworker of mine is about 6’2″ and he mentioned that he had the same problem. Fortunately for him though, he has the resources (well to do parents) to fly business class whenever he does fly.

    Comment by Toni | January 24, 2006 | Reply

  9. Erasing ones memories of past events has been portrayed in a few films of late. So many long to know the future and yet are trying to forget what has come before.

    Comment by dae | September 21, 2006 | Reply

  10. Phewww, I so have the hots for Evangeline! And Lost is my new favorite show. I just started watching it and in a few weeks caught up on season 1 and 2.

    Comment by mr skin | October 6, 2006 | Reply

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