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Movie Review: Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

This is one of my favorite movies, and I watched it last week with some friends that had never seen it before.  I truly love this movie.  It is quirky and touching, funny and heartbreaking.  I always sob at the end, it makes me so happy.  Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) meet on a random day (we think) on a train.  They strike up a conversation and spend the day and night together.  They have just met, and yet they can't seem to live without one another.

Flash back and we realize that Joel and Clementine have met before, although neither of them remembers this fact.  They are a couple that has broken up.  After an argument, Clementine, who is impulsive, decides to get brain surgery and forget ever meeting Joel.  The doctor goes into her brain and removes all traces of Joel.  Joel finds out she has done this through a mutual friend and decide he wants the procedure done as well.

During the procedure, the doctor begins to methodically remove the memories, starting from the last ones and working his way up to when the couple first met.  But as Joel experiences the memories, he begins to fall back in love with Clementine and tries to thwart the procedure by hiding Clementine in his childhood and other unlikely places.  When we movie begins, it is actually the ending of the story we see, and we do get a chance to see how Joel and Clementine interact after the surgery has occurred.

The acting is great.  This is Jim Carrey in one of his rare non-goofy roles.  The movie has humor, but it is not the slapstick humor he is famous for.  Elijah Wood and Kirsten Dunst show up in roles, as well.  To me, this movie is about how usually the things we think we like least about our partner are the reasons we like them.  Joel and Clementine seem like total opposites.  Joel is perceived by Clementine as boring.  He is very shy and doesn't like taking chances.  He tends to enjoy doing the same thing over and over again.  He is cautious and is afraid of being inadequate.  Clementine is impulsive, daring, and exciting.  She dyes her hair different colors to shock people.  She says exactly what is on her mind and doesn't seem to be afraid of anything.

They fight because they are two unique people, but they are still drawn together.  I think the movie has an important point to make.  When a relationship ends, it feels so painful.  In the moment, you wish that the pain would end.  Maybe you wish you had never met your beloved or that you could forget them.  But like Joel realizes, those memories are precious.  You may wish you could forget the memories, but the in the end, they are a part of what now makes you "you."  Try to remove the memories, and you lose something valuable.  Even if a relationship is over, you had the connection for a moment, a day, a month, a year.  You learned from that person and they learned from you.  That person will always be apart of you because you allowed them to touch your heart.  It is the same as when a loved one dies.  In your anger and pain, you might wish you could forget them, but that would mean forgetting a part of yourself.

I recommend this movie for couples in love and singles who are looking forward to love.    It does have quite a bit of language in it, so beware of that before delving in.


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