The fall of 2004 brought more with it than a simple climate change. I was 17 and newly-single; the combination of the two left me both vulnerable and impressionable. At the time, a lot of my serious movie aficionados were raving about some new Jim Carrey movie coming out on DVD. My interest piqued, I picked it up. Over the 103 minutes I shared with the movie, a revelation was made:
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was going to change my life.
For those who haven’t seen it in the past six years since its release, the movie is about Joel (Carrey) proceeding with a memory-erasing procedure in order to forget his memories of a failed relationship with Clementine (Kate Winslet). However, Joel is forced to re-live each memory as the procedure goes on. He is soon to regret his decision, attempting to hide Clementine in other memories in order to salvage the thought of her. It’s in these non-linear memory scenes where the bulk of the movie takes place.
What makes the movie stand out from the rest is Gondry’s clever movie-editing techniques. For example, a memory scene takes place where Joel is in a Barnes & Noble. As the procedure continues, the texts on the books begin to disappear, representing the erasure of that memory. Another example takes place towards the end of the movie where Joel makes one last stand to retain his memory of Clementine by finding shelter in a beach house. However, as the memory begins to disintegrate, so too does the house, falling apart around them.
Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman created whole characters that thought and reacted the way real people do. The strongest connection I made to the movie was with Joel. Every emotion he felt, I was feeling at the time. It’s so easy to empathize with him, especially when we’ve all been through tough breakups in the past. It’s simple to ask, “Is it better to have loved and lost than to never love at all?” Yet, Gondry and Kaufman actually expand on the premise and present to us a way to finally provide an answer.
Before Eternal Sunshine, I didn’t really take movies seriously. I think my favorite movie at the time was Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Eternal Sunshine introduced a new level of movies to me. Great movies are the ones that stick in your head long after you’ve watched them. It’s been four years, yet I still think of Joel and Clementine. Movies have come and gone that attempted to capture the relationship and break-up in a quirky, unconventional way ( Days of Summer quickly comes to mind), yet they’ve never been able to capture the originality and honesty that Eternal Sunshine possesses.
In the years that have followed since, I’ve become heavily interested in deep, character-driven independent dramedies. Eternal Sunshine was the stepping stone I used to enter the realm of cerebral movies, to view movies not only as entertainment, but art as well. It represented an awakening within me where I could appreciate movies in a way I never thought of before.
Who knows where my movie interests would have called home had it not been for that fall of 2004? Maybe I’d still be holding stupid weed and poop jokes in high regard, or Vin Diesel would be my favorite actor of all time (instead of my third favorite). Whatever the case may be, the memory of watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the first time is one I would never think of erasing.