Wednesday 28 September 2011

Devouring Films: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a film that pretty much explores the idea 'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all'. In creating a world where it's possible to choose, essentially, whether or not you have loved and lost, you can decide to erase all painful memories of a relationship, but in the bargain, you have to erase the absolutely amazing ones too. I found this concept, from the beginning, a very interesting one, and as you follow Joel (Jim Carrey) through his experience, you start to see that erasing another person from your memory means sacrificing the good along with the bad, and kind of proves the above statement, even while trying to achieve the opposite.

When I start using big words and linking films to poetical statements (or statements of a poet? Whatever) that means I kind of loved a film enough to give it some kind of extra-artistic analysis that makes it totally worthwhile to be watching films instead of, I don't know, reading Proust or something. But really, Eternal Sunshine was sort of wonderful. In a weird way, it reminded me of two Christopher Nolan films, even though, in its tone and lack of big bangs, it was completely different to any Nolan film I've ever seen. Nonetheless, it still reminded me of Inception, in that the majority of the film took place inside Jim Carrey's head (albeit in his memories rather than dreams, but still) and it reminded me of Memento, in that it kind of worked backwards, through Joel's memories of Clementine (Kate Winslet) as each of them is erased. You probably didn't need to know that, but I will say that Eternal Sunshine made me feel a much greater range of emotions than a Nolan film has, most of which was down to the performances of a cast that, I'm not gonna lie, I really really loved.

So let's talk about the cast. Poor old Elijah Wood plays another creepy character, the nerdy memory-erasing technician who has kind of stolen Joel's identity (don't ask me questions about that- even though this isn't really a spoiler-ish kind of film, I don't want to tell you the entire plot!) and who can't get a very cool Kirsten Dunst to like him, probably because he's creepy. What is it about his face that screams creepy? Because it definitely does. Anyway, apart from creepy-face, Mark Ruffalo who I love and adore and who can, therefore, do anything, is the actual memory eraser, and he looks lovely and dorky in his big glasses. And he probably acts well too, but, you know, who cares? Kirsten Dunst, who I like, does a good job as his girlfriend and also receptionist of the weird memory-erasing company.

This film really belongs to Kate Winslet, and, I think to a far greater extent, Jim Carrey though. I can't even describe how much I love Jim Carrey, and I would never ever say mean things about him like other people, but even I would have to admit that, really, I've never seen him play anything other than a hilarious, slightly unhinged person who can do funny voices and just generally be really hilarious. As I may have mentioned, I do love him in all these roles because I find them hilarious, but Joel is something else entirely. He's real, in a way no other Carrey character I've seen has ever quite been. It was so wonderful to watch, and I kind of felt validated in my love for him because now, everyone can see that actually, he's a pretty great actor! Kate Winslet is always pretty great, and I love her as the free-spirited Clementine, even though she starts the whole mess of the memory erasing on a whim. But then, that's the whole appeal of her character, the entire reason Joel wants to both forget and remember her, and Winslet plays her really well.

I'm very conscious that I might have already given away slightly too much about this film, especially because I didn't really have any idea of how it was going to work before I watched it, and I really loved it because of that. While there are a lot of things I want to discuss (the ethics of undertaking such memory erasure, for example, and the parts of Joel's childhood that are also lost as a result of it, and especially the implications of the beginning/end of the film) I'm going to hold back on them because you really deserve to watch this beautiful film without knowing too much about it, and have the opportunity to love it as much as I did.


  1. I love this movie like zombies love brains. I don't even know why I love it so. It's twisted and could (hopefully) never happen, but I'm drawn to it. I love all the plot twists.

  2. Jenn, I HEART this film so much! It's just wonderful and it make me think about stuff and things. Yay!

  3. Sadly I've only seen this movie once but I remember really liking it.

    And Elijah Wood IS a creepy mofo! I feel like I should avert my eyes whenever the camera is on him.