movie film review | chris tookey

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Review
Tookey's Rating
6 /10
Average Rating
7.30 /10
Joel Barish: Jim Carrey, Clementine Kruczynski: Kate Winslet
Full Cast >

Directed by: Michel Gondry
Written by: Charlie Kaufman

Released: 2004
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US
Length: 108

Geek tries to erase memory of flaky girl-friend, then has second thoughts, but can’t remember first thoughts.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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A young man - Jim Carrey (pictured right) – is mortified to discover that ex-girlfriend Kate Winslet (pictured left) has had him erased from her mind. By way of revenge, Carrey decides to have his memories of her wiped as well, only to have second thoughts during the operation. Much of the movie is given over to nightmarish action sequences of him trying to escape the process, in special-effect sequences that start out entertaining but become over-repetitive and confusing.

You may love or hate Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but you won’t have seen a romantic comedy like it. Watch any movie written by Charlie Kaufman - his best two remain Being John Malkovich and Adaptation - and you are assured an original premise, quirky sense of humour and ingenious plot.

This is director Michel Gondry’s second film with Kaufman - the other was Human Nature, which failed to find a cinema release in the UK.

The boss of the memory-wiping company, Lacuna, is played by Tom Wilkinson; his eternally cheerful receptionist is Kirsten Dunst; his brainwasher-in-chief is Mark Ruffalo, and Ruffalo’s unprincipled assistant is Elijah Wood, so that may give you some idea of how well acted this movie is.

It’s also quite challenging. The film does make sense, but a lot of people (especially fans of Jim Carrey when he’s in more downmarket, gurning mode) are going to find it incomprehensible. And there is substance to the complaint that this is neither funny enough to qualify as comedy, nor deep enough to excel as drama.

Kaufman’s most chronic fault is that beneath the surface brilliance of his work you don’t always get profound characterisation or insights into the human condition; they don’t stand up all that well to a second viewing, when their lack of depth and maturity becomes apparent.

However, the message of this movie is a wise one. It argues that we are the sum of our memories, the sad ones as much as our joyful recollections, and we tinker with them at our peril. Our experiences may cause us pain, but the memory of them should also bring us wisdom.

Unfortunately, the film is let down by shallow characterisation. The main love story – which, after one of the longest pre-titles sequences in movie history, is told backwards - comes across as a little too ordinary. The two lovers are bland and generic (he’s moody and introspective, she’s spiky and extrovert), and they fail to earn enough of our sympathy.

The most touching and memorable character turns out to be the receptionist, beautifully played by Kirsten Dunst. The main narrative twist involves her, and carries a considerable emotional punch – so much so that it made me aware of just how apathetic I was about our hero and heroine.

It’s because of its failure to involve us deeply in their relationship that this clever, original and wonderfully eccentric movie is unlikely to wow the moviegoing millions.

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