5 Reasons to Watch: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

IMDb rating8.4 | Rotten Tomatoes93% |  Director: MICHEL GONDRY | Screenplay: CHARLIE KAUFMAN (Being John Malkovich,  Adaptation) | Cast: KATE WINSLET, JIM CARREY

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 09.05.45

A speedy synopsis…

  • Joel (Jim Carrey) is heartbroken to discover his ex-girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet), has undergone a special procedure to erase him – and their relationship – from her memory…
  • …He decides to do the same.
  • We’re taken through the process of memory-elimination, moving backwards through special moments of their relationship as they’re erased one by one.
  • In the act itself, Joel realises he still loves Clementine and doesn’t want to lose her from his memories.
  • Desperately, he tries to escape the process and cling on to her by smuggling her away into pockets of his mind, hiding her amongst other memories where she doesn’t belong, distorting what’s real…


1  The originality of Charlie’s script
It’s thought-provoking on themes like the value of our relationships in life, regret, love lost and found, the substance of our experiences, how our sour, unpalatable memories are just as defining as our happy ones. It’s classic Kaufman. Smart, creative story-telling with an intriguing concept at heart.
JOEL: I can’t see anything that I don’t like about you.
CLEMENTINE: But you will! But you will. You know, you will think of things. And I’ll get bored with you and feel trapped because that’s what happens with me.
JOEL: Okay.
CLEMENTINE: [pauses] Okay.

2  Career-defining performances
I should say it’s the first (and so far only) film I’ve seen Jim Carrey in where he doesn’t irritate the hell out of me. At all. In fact, he’s excellent. Kate is also her usual brilliant, spirited, quirky self.

3  Its realness
Kaufman’s weird, subliminal, ‘inside the tangled mind’ thing can scare people off when it veers too close to non-sensical, but not in this movie. Instead it brings forth a quality that’s raw and truthful – for that reason it’s more accessible than some of his other work.

4  Michel Gondry’s brilliant editing
This alone justifies repeat views. Visually this film mesmerises.

5  The portrayal of relationships
As EMPIRE magazine‘s Colin Kennedy said “No movie since Annie Hall has better captured the entire arc of a relationship.” It plays with the idea that, just like the painful memories Joel wants rid of,  love is not glamorous or even eternal. It’s flawed, and it’s breakable. But none of these things make it less true, less beautiful or less central to our happiness.

CLEMENTINE: This is it, Joel. It’s going to be gone soon.
JOEL: I know.
CLEMENTINE: What do we do?
JOEL: Enjoy it.


  1. A lot of the dialogue between Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet came out of video-taped rehearsal sessions, during which the actors shared real-life stories of past relationships and heartbreaks. Elijah Wood and Mark Ruffalo also improvised a lot in their scenes.
  2. Director Michel Gondry first got the idea for the film when his friend (the artist Pierre Bismuth) posed to him, “You get a card in the mail that says: someone you know has just erased you from their memory…”
  3. The bit where Clementine disappears suddenly is a favourite moment of Gondry’s because Jim Carrey actually didn’t know Kate Winslet was going to disappear. The saddened look on his face is therefore totally genuine. When the sound blanks out in the final film, Carrey is actually saying “Kate?.. Kate?”
  4. The film won an Oscar for ‘Best Original Screenplay.
  5. The film and its title is based around an Alexander Pope quote/poem:

“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.”

What did you think of this film? Love it, or loathe it?


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