• Sat. Jun 22nd, 2024

Cult Column: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

ByRosie Dean Harding

Feb 27, 2023
Kate Winslet

The dreamscape that is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) takes its audience on a bittersweet journey of love, nostalgia and regret. The film progresses to the ugly ending of Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clemintine’s (Kate Winslet) relationship, where they both, separately, decide to impulsively undergo a memory-erasure procedure. Focusing on the regret and outcome of the new age procedure, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind depicts the beautiful and the ugly of an intimate relationship, and how this artificial barrier can only temporarily interrupt the natural course of a relationship.

Director Michel Gondry creates a surrealist world, making Joel travel through dreams within dreams in a hopeless attempt to conserve Clemintine and his already forgotten relationship. We begin the film onboard a train journey to Montauk with Joel, to sit by the seaside and watch him aimlessly write in his diary. We see a glimpse of his life, melancholy, unable to put his finger on what is missing, perhaps visualized through the unexplainably ripped out pages Joel stumbles across in his notebook.

Montauk beach becomes a meeting point for the two throughout the movie, an empty, sparse place, seemingly where Joel’s mind finds shelter in the early days of the couple’s relationship. “I can’t remember anything without you,” he poignantly pleas while dragging Clemintine through various surreal scenes to escape her erasure. Their relationship through Joel’s eyes appears draining and somewhat more menial than he would have initially thought; but once we are brought back to the setting where they initially met, rekindling the feelings of nostalgia, the question is posed: maybe it’s worth it?

Stepping away from the poignant plotline, the cast is equally amazing. Aside from Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as the leads, Kirsten Dunst transforms into an assistant at the Lacuna firm, Mary, who is infatuated by the older Doctor Howard (Tom Wilkinson). Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood both perform extraordinarily well as the younger scientists involved in the project, attempting to keep Joel and Clemintine from reconnecting. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind excels at portraying natural human errors, in addition to the interconnectedness of characters’ personal lives.

One highlight of the film is simply Clemintine – sporadic, extroverted and spontaneous. With orange or blue hair, Joel finds himself transfixed on her, either on the beach or perhaps on the train journey they both found themselves on. However, despite her enchanting qualities, she reminds the audience throughout the film that she is in fact that a normal woman with the same flaws as every other person. Perhaps today’s audience would label her a ‘manic pixie dream girl’, especially once we see how Joel idealises her as some excitable enigma and then gets disheartened by the everyday routine of their long-term relationship. Kate Winslet manages to mold Clemintine into a very complex and individual, yet realistic character.

Soft indie sounds and melancholic instrumentals also neatly tie together to create a moving and reflective film, which could not be done without Jon Brion’s soundtrack. The importance of an original soundtrack for a movie should not be ignored; each piece is carefully created to slide into a scene, enhancing the already felt atmosphere and adding to the poignancy. There are some fun exceptions to this rule such as ‘Something’ by The Willowz, demonstrating the art of a varied and well-chosen soundtrack.

From Clemintine’s ever-changing bright hair colours to the soundtrack, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a film about impulsive and melancholy decisions. The mix of sci-fi technology and raw, human relationships simmers down to a realistic and tragic love story for the ages.

Image “Kate Winslet” by Maggiejumps is licensed under CC BY 2.0.