I bet there are plenty out there who would undergo the procedure central to this film. A relationship is ripping apart and so you have every memory of your significant other erased from your memory. A clean break. On the surface this seems like a perfect way to avoid a large part of the heartache associated with the end of a relationship. It seemed like the solution for Joel Barish (Jim Carrey – Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb and Dumber) and Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet – The Mountain Between Us, Finding Neverland) until the process begins to demonstrate to them what they actually have.
Joel is torn up when he learns his former girlfriend Clementine is undergoing a procedure that will erase any memory she has of him. As such, he decides to do the same. While it is happening and as he is watching his memories for the last time, Joel realizes that he still loves Clementine. Is it too late for them?
When going into a Charlie Kaufman penned (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Adaptation) or directed (Anomalisa, Synecdoche, New York) film you know you are in for a heavy dose of weirdness. This is the case with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It was first released in 2004 and FNC screened it at this year’s festival. Why, you ask? Well, because it is a bloody brilliant piece of film making. Despite the fact that during a large part of the film you might be a little confused about what is going on, you will still find yourself drawn to it. That is because of the quirky story, strong direction by Michel Gondry (The Green Hornet, Be Kind Rewind), stellar turn by Kate Winslet, and what is probably the best performance of Jim Carrey’s career.
How do you keep an audience interested in a film in which a large percentage of it happens in the mind of your male lead? Well, you get Jim Carrey to act rather than ham it up as he usually does. Instead of twisting his face into comedic contortions, this time out he uses it to express the pain and joy his character is feeling at any given moment.
Kate Winslet is…well, Kate Winslet. She definitely deserved her Oscar nomination for her work in this film. What could have be a one dimensional wild child young woman in her hands becomes a fully fleshed out and complex character. And she makes you care about the woman who has dumped Joel and erased him from her memory. Despite all this you want them to end up together.
The story is a beautifully constructed mess like much of Kaufman’s material. Scenes that seem like they might be extraneous end up being imperative. Somehow this mad genius is able to write scripts that are bizarre, but emotionally impactful. He manages to tell what is essentially a love story in such a unique way that we are never bored or thinking we have seen it all before like other films from this genre. He is a writer/storyteller who shows no signs of fear and has managed to make a romance that is unpredictable.
While delving into the romance department, Kaufman’s story is also about memory and how humans are about them. We sometimes have a tendency to make things that happened to us in the past either better or worse than they actually are. Atonement and redemption are also major themes of the film. Manages to rise up familiar feelings while you are watching. Universal feelings.
Director Gondry makes plenty of wise decisions from the other side of the camera. Using hand cameras and moving quickly between scenes and his subjects he allows the viewer to feel a part of what is going on. The way it is shot and how he has chosen to frame the story makes it all feel so much more personal. The visual images he uses in his telling of the Kaufman tale are very moving.
A film that, no matter what, you will remember.