Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Stephen Simon by Stephen Simon | January 31st, 2011 | No Comments
topic: Personal Growth, Relationships

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindFrom time to time, I will highlight a classic film that some — maybe even many — people might have missed. Or forgotten. Or maybe you did see it, and forgot that you asked for it to be erased it from your memory?


Your heart has been broken in a love relationship that ends.

Someone offers you the chance to literally erase that relationship — that person — and everything about it and them from your memory forever.

Would you do it?

Should you do it?

COULD you do it?

Such is the provocative premise of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind from 2004.

To delve into the story too much would be to usurp from you the discovery of and fascination in its intricacy, so I will only say that the heart of the film takes place in the mind of its main character, Joel, played with nuance, sensitivity and endearing vulnerability by Jim Carrey, in the first role in which he literally disappeared into his character. As Carrey remembers Clementine, the great love of his life (played with heartbreaking, poignant, eclectic and luminescent beauty by the inestimable Kate Winslett), each memory is, at his request, systematically erased … or is it? Can it ever be?

In Eternal Sunshine, the central question relates to our memories of those we have loved and who have loved us. What happens to our experience of those memories if the love transforms, ends, transmutes into pain, heartbreak, sadness? Do we live in the sunshine of the love as it was when it shone most brightly, or do we suffer in the darkness of the pain of the aftermath of heartbreak and disillusionment? Would we erase those memories if we could?

In Eternal Sunshine, Clementine and Joel find a blissful love that is reflected in their differences (his shyness and her extroverted charm) and their similarities (Chinese food, adventures at night in the dark), and yet they repeat patterns from previous relationships that ultimately lead to separation; however, here they receive a gift of such extravagant promise that perhaps, once and for all, those patterns can be shattered forever.

As the haunting theme of the film reminds us:

“Change your heart, and look around you …

Change your heart, it will astound you

… everybody’s gotta learn sometime …”

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