Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
March 1, 2018 7:00 PM - Subscribe

When their relationship turns sour, a young couple undergoes a medical procedure to have each other erased from their memories.

Rolling Stone: The core of the movie is what's going on in Joel's head. And it's here that the filmmakers lavish their most creative and insightful notions. As Joel struggles to hold on to the memories of the woman he truly loves, Kaufman and Gondry grapple with the concept of memory itself and how it defines our lives. This is heady stuff — gorgeously shot by Ellen Kuras — that might fly off the handle into meta-hot air were it not for the grounded and groundbreaking performances of Carrey and Winslet. Never once do we doubt the bond that holds these embattled lovers despite their crippling flaws.

The Atlantic: At its core, Eternal Sunshine is about the need for atonement and redemption. "Freed" from the memory of their painful breakup, Joel and Clementine can no longer forgive nor ask forgiveness for past hurts received or inflicted, and can reconcile neither with one another nor with themselves. Their past together is like a frayed nerve that leads nowhere, the phantom limb of the amputee. No matter how many times they wander in the footsteps of their lost memories they can never recapture them. It is only through Fate or God's grace or True Love--or, for the more literal-minded, a glitch in Lacuna's process--that they are given a second chance to make themselves whole. These are admirably big themes.

Entertainment Weekly: ”Eternal Sunshine” has a lilting psychological fancy, yet it works because it’s also rough and real and intimate and alive, with Gondry using a handheld camera to stage backward leaps in time that feel, in execution if not tone, highly influenced by ”Memento.” Kaufman, never shy about excess, keeps multiplying the structural complications. A subplot with Kirsten Dunst as another Mierzwiak assistant is nifty and clever; the one with Elijah Wood’s Patrick exploiting the memory procedure for his own gain is a tad underdeveloped. Yet the cumulative impact leaves the audience happily and profoundly buzzed.

NYTimes: The inspiration for ''Sunshine,'' seems to be Harold Ramis's ''Groundhog Day,'' which -- like any great movie -- gains in stature as time passes. Where Bill Murray dominated that film -- and its accomplishment seemed overshadowed because he bestrode the picture like a giant -- ''Sunshine'' is filled with a group of outsize selfish folks whose minor-league brattiness makes the second half of the film funny and ugly.

Slate: The laws of time and space are constantly flouted, yet the film moves along an unbroken thread of memories—a filament that's white-hot with emotion. Like the greatest science fiction writers, Kaufman is using a bizarre futuristic scenario to tell us something about the here and now: about the loss of our most vivid loves to the impermanence of memory; and about the life we lose when, to go on living, we force ourselves to forget. In Being John Malkovich (1999), Kaufman boxed himself into a corner and the movie went sour, but here he comes up with a beautiful and searching last scene—irrational in its hopefulness yet completely convincing.

Roger Ebert: The wisdom in "Eternal Sunshine" is how it illuminates the way memory interacts with love. We more readily recall pleasure than pain. From the hospital I remember laughing nurses and not sleepless nights. A drunk remembers the good times better than the hangovers. A failed political candidate remembers the applause. An unsuccessful romantic lover remembers the times when it worked.


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posted by MoonOrb (9 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I love this movie so much and I think about it all the time. I remember when it came out I had just started at a new college and my new roommates didn’t get it and I was really disappointed. Not much media makes me cry but the scene at the end where they’re driving home from the beach party gets me every single time.
These review blurbs were great, I really enjoyed reading them. This was a great post.
posted by bleep at 9:49 PM on March 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I guess I should watch this all the way through it's one of those that I've caught snippets and know the basic story. The core idea disturbs me like the way elders aware of approaching alzheimers are disturbed. Memory is so core to what makes us humans an individual, messing with that is more a scary horror than a cute love story.
posted by sammyo at 8:22 AM on March 2, 2018

You should definitely watch it all the way through.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:34 AM on March 2, 2018 [7 favorites]

I saw this at a very low point in my life on a date with The Wrong Guy. I basically sobbed silently and pitifully from about 10 minutes in. I thought he was being respectfully quiet...until the end of the movie, when I realized he had been sleeping the whole time.

I should have dumped him then.
posted by mynameisluka at 7:56 PM on March 2, 2018 [5 favorites]

Absolutely one of my favourite movies of all time. It was a clever movie, like Momento, but it was really affecting too which a lot of clever movies aren't. The love story was so real, it felt like you were watching a real couple, that you knew.

Also I didn't have to watch it three times and spend a weekend trying to figure out what actually happened so that was nice.
posted by fshgrl at 11:00 PM on March 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yeah, this is one of the important movies of my life, one of those that helped me discover what can be done through the medium. Only a short time before I saw Mulholland Drive, which has a similar place in my movie watching career. And since in my experience they're so close together, I tend to always think of the other as well when I recall one of them. Now that I think about it though, their similarities are perhaps not simply a construction of my memories, but they do approach the medium in quite similar playful ways. Though Drive tends to alienate and Sunshine rather draws us in with extraordinarily deep emotions (really, Sunshine is both the sweetest and the saddest movie I've seen, I think), they both deal with the effects of time and our experience of time. Can we manipulate it and write our own temporal biography or does it govern over us, letting us have only the illusion of authorship over our "own" narrative and memories - and thus, in the end, over ourselves? While mostly movies do not problematize this aspect by simply showing us narratives that follow a rather strict cause and effect logic, both Drive and Sunshine make us question the assumptions with which we consume narrative in cinema. And do this with such emotional depth as Sunshine does is fucking amazing (and shows, I think, how much Gondry needed Kaufman to pull this off, since much of Gondry's later works have simply stayed on the level of playful exercise with not much to involve the viewer in their world).
posted by sapagan at 2:54 AM on March 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Such a great movie on so many levels. The use of effects, and the editing, and the story construction are effortlessly clever and surprising. The thing that really gets me is the depth and specificity of the emotional elements of the story. The best example is his memory of just sitting on the couch and looking down at her underwear and getting turned on. It's a small detail, but it feels very true, like this is the kind of memory that sticks with you. A brief glimpse of something and it sets off all kinds of reactions. It is so well-observed and so well-played.
posted by wabbittwax at 10:16 AM on March 3, 2018

The Atlantic: It is only through Fate or God's grace or True Love--or, for the more literal-minded, a glitch in Lacuna's process--that they are given a second chance to make themselves whole.

posted by happyroach at 1:43 AM on March 4, 2018

this movie felt at times like some of my best dreams and more often like my worst nightmares - all of the "watching a loved one being pulled away" scenes feel like they have been extracted directly from the darkest potholes of my subconscious. It's amazing.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:20 AM on March 4, 2018

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