Review: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Directed by: Michel Gondry
Starring
: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood

Valentine’s Day: notoriously heedful Joel Barish impulsively plays hooky from work and hops on the next train to Montauk. After a short walk on the beach, Joel returns home, encountering the bubbly Clementine in the process. Little does he know, the two were once lovers, but thanks to the mysterious Lacuna, Inc., Clementine made a choice to have any and all memories of their relationship permanently erased from her mind once things began to turn sour. Upon discovering this, Joel decides to do the same, that is until halfway through the procedure, when he starts to regret his decision and desperately tries to cling to the remaining memories he has of Clementine in an attempt to hopefully salvage what they once had.

Perfection. This is one of several words that come to mind when I think of Michel Gondry’s 2004 masterpiece. Never have I ever experienced something so profound upon viewing a particular film. I guess Gondry, Kaufman, and newcomer Pierre Bismuth are primarily to thank here, given the amount of sheer genius and originality the story itself indeed possesses, but it’s an all too successful blend of Kaufman’s genius and Gondry’s visual expertise that make Eternal Sunshine‘s often (and appropriately) complex narrative structure as enjoyable as can be.

One of the film’s most appealing qualities in this respect is the dreamlike state in which a majority of it is presented. Seeing as how the film’s more important scenes play themselves out in the form of Joel’s incredibly vivid dream sequence centering around the ups and downs of his and Clementine’s relationship, such an approach is absolutely flawless. In fact, it’s this more or less superbly artistic approach that gives the story as a whole a true sense of clarity; it provides insight, quite literally, into Joel’s mind in terms of aiding us in discovering who he truly is as a person, and the same goes for his memories of Clementine, allowing us to see exactly where they both went wrong. Furthermore, the film’s pacing is stupendous, and a terrific balance exists between the momenets inside Joel’s head and the circumstances affecting his life outside of it. This, coupled with some excellent visuals and incredibly appropriate soundtrack make me wonder why Gondry and Kaufman aren’t permanently attached at the hip.

Jim Carrey offers his best performance to date in my opinion; a welcome departure from that of his hit-or-miss slapstick days, and I honestly couldn’t picture anyone else in the role as the softspoken introvert that is Joel. Winslet is fantastic as always, and the chemistry exhibited between both leads is pretty outstanding despite their incredibly different filmographies. An excellent ensemble supporting cast also brings a substantial amount to the table, providing us with equal parts laughter and heartfelt drama to further compliment Kaufman’s already outstanding screenplay.

I can’t really find anything remotely unfavorable to say about this film, with the exception of those deeming Gondry and Kaufman’s approach to filmmaking as “too artsy” when trying to stomach the film’s narrative complexities. However, if you’re like me, you’ll find it relatively hard to dislike anything about the excellent collaboration at hand, not to mention the perfect cast and suitable soundtrack that serve as the proverbial icing on the cake. To be honest, I’ll even go so far as to say Eternal Sunshine is easily the best film of the decade thus far, and a part of my ever-expanding list of all-time favorites.

Rating: 10/10

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