#86: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

When and how did I watch this?

October 28th, 2016 on Netflix.

Had I seen this film already?

Yes.  This is one of my favorites.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

One of my favorite Jim Carrey films is The Truman Show, a surprisingly un-funny story about a man unwittingly trapped in a giant TV show set for all to see and adore. His performance shocked me, because I was used to seeing him in the likes of Ace VenturaDumb and Dumber, and The Mask, movies involving cringeworthy physical comedy and even worse screenwriting, and his role as Truman was some of the best work I’d seen from any actor. When I heard about Eternal Sunshine, I was intrigued, and I knew I would see nothing less than spectacular work.  I was not mistaken: it became one of the best films I’d ever seen. The idea of erasing memories is more philosophical than a fun sci-fi movie concept. And as Joel Barish (Carrey) realizes his error, he strives to escape and maintain the memories he wanted to keep all along. This was deeply moving to me — in the end, we don’t mind keeping the positive and negative memories.

What do I know about it now?


I returned to the film prepared to cry.  It happened again. It’s one of the few movies that manages to do it every time. This time around, I decided to focus on the filmography and line delivery, both of which proved to be just as compelling as the story itself.  At times, the sound of the dialogue grows muffled, almost lethargic, and we hear Joel speaking without his lips moving, and a Clementine talking to Joel from afar, yet hearing her as if she’s still sitting nearby. It took this viewing to realize we could also “hear” the folks performing the procedure talking “above” the world Joel is stuck within during his induced sleep. Of course, we’re talking about an array of spectacular actors, so every moment and line is delivered with intense meaning. Nothing is wasted.  Meanwhile, the intricacies of the “fading” scenes are remarkable: book titles missing, props sliding away unassisted, structures loudly collapsing, all symbolic of loss, often prompting me to swallow golf balls as I realize Joel will never remember the moment or scene again.

What are some themes in the film?

Acceptance, fidelity/false sincerity, value of life/humanity, fate, introversion/extroversion

Did this affect me personally?

It’s hard not to be affected.

Why is this ranked #86?

This movie is somewhat unsung.  I believe it was nominated for some Oscars, but it’s likely overlooked for being too bizarre. Upon really watching this film, however, it quickly enraptures you and carries you into emotions you didn’t know you had. Most viewers that have actually given this one a shot are likely captivated by the actors’ performances along with one of the most unforgettable stories told on screen.

Did my wife watch/like it?

This is also one of her favorites.  Of course she did, on both accounts.

Would I watch it again?

I own this one, and I don’t own very many films.  Yes, and yes again.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

It’d be a tragedy if you missed this one in your lifetime.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

No doubt.  The film manages to combine science fiction, romance, some humor, and intense dramatic sequences without any continuity issues.  We often weave in and out of conscious and subconscious thought even when we’re awake, and we often dream like Joel does, but perhaps not as intensely, and certainly not for the purpose in the film.  Nonetheless, we can all relate, both on the conscious and subconscious level, with the sense of lost control, lost hope, fate, and warm memories mixed with less desirable ones.

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