Tag Archives: eternal sunshine of the spotless mind

Meet you in Montauk

24 Mar

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)


Time and memory is a bitch.


Because they are the two consistent things that keep reminding us of our pain. How we use that pain will ultimately shape us as unique individuals. Some people use pain as motivation to be better, some use it as a learning curve and some never completely recover and choose to wallow in self bitterness. I could use love as an example too but that would be too easy and predictable.

If I had to choose between the two, I choose pain.


Because pain makes us grow, because pain is a necessary evil to keep us alive, because pain keeps us moving forward.

But some people simply can’t face the pain because the wounds are far too great to bear.

Wouldn’t that be a relief if that part of your memory that hides your inner most pain can be erased? All those perfect scars in your deepest memories can be deleted instantly? All those regrets and mistakes that are dragging you down will disappear in a flash?

Would you do it if you had the choice?

Apparently many did in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. Well, to be specific Clementine (Kate Winslet) did. She erased her memories that had anything to do with Joel (Jim Carrey). When Joel finds out, he gets mad like any other person would in the last dying breath of their relationship and he retaliates by getting the same treatment done. The thing is, memory also serves as a stubborn reminder of why we hold on to those fleeting moments that are dear to us. Fleeting moments that are precious or intimate with people we’ve loved. It’s because those same people that we have connection with also defined us as a person.

Without them, we are nothing.

Joel realizes this as the procedure begins erasing his memories of Clementine and he decides to fight it off because he still wants to remember. He needs to remember her because Clementine has been so ingrained in his psyches that she has become an integral part of his life, for better or worse.

Writer Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondry are the perfect collaborators for this film because each played to each other’s strength and covered each other’s weaknesses. Kaufman is a cubist writer who is brilliant and loves to push things to the limit but sometimes needs to be rein in because he has a morbid habit of demolishing story/characters and turning them bitter without any sort of redemptive qualities. This is where Gondry comes in to make the story more hopeful and open. Gondry is one of those rare director who is technically gifted but with a heart to back it up, a somewhat rare commodity in today’s filmmaking. He saw something pure and unabashed in the story amidst all the non-linear/maze like structure /heavy theme. He saw a simple love story with a very off beat approach.

It would be easy to get lost and be confused by the many different layers of story as it got deeper and surreal but it never got bogged down by the razzle dazzle of the clever structure or the cool lo-fi effects that Gondry designed because all those elements were designed to make the story whole and not vice versa.

At the heart of it all, the emotions of the characters journey were very…well emotional, familiar and touched a nerve without being sappy or falling to most romantic movies clichés. We see how when they first meet. Joel is a shy timid introvert while Clementine is a bashful extrovert, an unlikely pairing that sparks off a unique chemistry that embedded deeply in their minds. We also see how their relationship starts to decay slowly and their resentment towards one another reach an unbearable level ,“Are we the dining dead?”

This story works because Kaufman wanted to make sure you believe in their relationship first and it feels real and not artificial. Once you bought in to their story, Kaufman pulls the rug under you and the real journey starts. I guess what I’m trying to say is the core of this film is crystal clear and easy to understand which is why the film never gets confusing.

The direction of Gondry is truly spot on because he refused to jump in with the 3D/CGI bandwagon for this film and instead using mainly lo-fi effect techniques that were mainly shot in camera to give it a surrealist feel that is also feel very raw and imperfect yet works perfectly. As Joel’s final memory of Clementine’s collapsing and he sees all their little precious moments flashing by in a train ride like effect, the realness/rawness of that effect really hits home because that is something that 3D will never capture, the intimacy of your world falling apart in front of you being captured like a slide show. And summarised perfectly by this  dialogue scene:

Carrie: I saw you talking to someone pretty!

Rob: Yeah, man, who was that?

Joel: She was… just a girl.

Makes it one of the most heart aching scenes in film history.

Later on, when Joel and Clementine meet up again in Montauk, though they don’t remember each other but somehow sense a strong familiarity/bond with each other. It really is a statement about the human heart, that it has a mind of its own.

That is truly romantic.


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