Film reviews

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Dir; Michel Gondry, Cert; 15

Like the best science fictions, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind asks “what if” and explores the notions of the answer. The question, “what if you could erase a memory?” is a very interesting one that answers it in a very moral and uplifting way. Our central character, played by Jim Carrey, is Joel. After a bitter separation with his girlfriend Clementine (a virtuoso Kate Winslet) he desperately tries to reconcile only to find she has completely erased him from her memory using a special technique. Feeling heartbroken, he goes to the company, Lacuna Incorporated that is run by Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson), which does this technique to have the same thing done to him regarding her.

The majority of the film is set inside the mind of Joel, as three Lacuna employees, Stan (Mark Ruffalo), Patrick (Elijah Wood) and Mary (Kirsten Dunst) proceed to work backwards through every detail of Clementine, from the last memory he has of her to the very first moment Joel saw her, wiping them out using a special headset that looks like a prop from Star Trek. What follows is a brilliant arc of feelings; revenge, hatred, sorrow, regret and ultimately love. One particular moment where Joel is saying goodbye to Clementine in a library as the books around her begin to fade away. The spectacle in this science fiction lies in the emotional reverberation rather than the special effects.

When Joel begins to regret going through the procedure he takes Clementine through various scenes, trying to run away from the erasure, trying to hide her in a memory that cannot be affected. Elements around them fade away and you’re left hoping that Clementine will remain untouched. The special effects are great. They are here to serve the plot of Joel’s memories slowly fading away and are very subtle, working away in the background virtually unnoticeable carefully complementing the tugging of the heartstrings with the characters’ feelings. Never before has a car disappearing section by section been so emotionally affecting. Much like Kauffman’s earlier work, Being John Malkovich Michael Gondry’s work on his exceptional music videos has really paid off regarding the film’s visuals.

The film turns interesting when complications arise between the Lacuna employees, arguing amongst each other, as Joel lies comatose next to them battling the erasure of his ex girlfriend. I shall not reveal the whole situation as there is a major turn in this plot regarding the complications but they add a whole new step to the overwhelming pinnacle that’s ultimately all about love.

The plot goes to and fro and can be quite disconcerting but thanks to the emotional centre it works, and it works very well indeed. Our two protagonists jump backwards and forwards through various moments of reality and amour but what remains constant is the need for love and friendship and the need to seek them despite the fact that Joel and Clementine are completely different people – Joel is a quiet and compulsive introvert and Clementine is an unrestrained and wild eccentric. We also learn that good memories are much more memorable and precious than the others and that bad memories help to shape us. This is not your regular Jim Carrey film to take your girlfriend to for a backseat kiss.

The actor has certainly grown up a bit since his Ace Ventura days. Films such as Man on the Moon, The Truman Show and The Majestic proved to the world that there was more to this actor than his rubbery face and his vast range of sound effects that only Larvelle Jones from Police Academy could compete with. With this second collaboration with music video director Michael Gondry and the eccentric Charlie Kauffman (the first being the self-parody Human Nature), Jim Carrey has take a big step forward with his acting skills. Kate Winslet rises above her character in a performance that is both arrogant and underplayed for she plays a character that is both mean and loveable. Needless to say she is excellent as are the supporting cast. I look forward to seeing many more films like this from Gondry and Kauffman. 9/10


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