Following the ugly breakup with his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet), Joel (Jim Carey) discovers that she has had the entire relationship erased from her memory. Unable to bear the heartbreak himself and distraught that she could so casually discard their time together, he decides to undergo the procedure himself. But as his memories are slowly being erased he realizes that he doesn’t want to loose the good memories along with the bad and so Joel and a memory of Clementine go on a run through his mind to try and save at least one happy moment from their time together.
Jim Carey has given some strong performances before (most notably in 1999’s Man On The Moon), but his work in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is perhaps his strongest to date. His rage and despair over the dissolution of his relationship with Clementine are palpable and ring true for anyone who has gone through a similar experience. Yet he plays the quieter moments of the relationship with a warmth and honesty that his acting has only previously hinted at and serves to reinforce the pain he shows when the relationship disintegrates. As written, Clementine could have been played as completely self-absorbed. Winslet, however, manages to inject her with a layer of likeability that helps the audience to believe that Joel could fall in love
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is perhaps that most literate science-fiction film in a long time. There are no explosions, no action set pieces. The only notable visual effects are in the imaginative depictions of Joel’s mindscape. Director Michel Gondry manages some nice subtle touches that comment on the nature of memory. In one scene the background crowd all have blurry faces, leading viewers to wonder if they could recall the faces of random people passed on the street.
Instead, the film is a story about how people are impacted by new technology. Everyone knows the pain of heartbreak, be it from the death of a loved one or the dissolution of a romantic relationship. But if offered the chance, would you erase all memory of that relationship to take away the pain? What would happen to anything you learned about yourself, or the changes made to you as a person because of that relationship? Would you be dooming yourself to making the same mistakes over and over again? These are questions that the movie poses to both its characters and its audience, leaving movie-goers with something more deep to discuss upon leaving the theatre than where to go for a post-movie drink.