Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) are in a passionate but volatile relationship, which inevitably does not last. When Clementine visits a clinic to have him rubbed out of her memory, Joel is rejected and decides to take the same course of action. However during the procedure it dawns on him that he is still very much in love with Clementine and so tries to fight the process.
The name of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman on the credits of a film sends up signals – what next can you expect from the writer of Being John Malkovich, Human Nature and Adaptation? Well, a title like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind just for starters. This film is the story of a romance told backwards.
It begins with Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) dragging himself out of bed to the train station where, instead of going to work, he decides to go in the opposite direction, to the beach at Montauk on Long Island. On the beach is Clementine Kruzyniski (Kate Winslet) with blue hair and an unstoppable enthusiasm. They connect. It's Valentine's Day. When Joel meets her again, it's strangely three days before Valentine's Day, and she doesn't recognise him. He learns to his chagrin that he and Clementine had had a relationship but it had gone sour and she decided to have memories of him erased from her mind. He opts to do the same with Lacuna Inc. run by Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) and his team – receptionist (Kirsten Dunst) and technicians (Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood).
Directed by Michel Gondry who made the least successful of Kaufman's previous films Human Nature. This is once again a mindgame of a film. But where you got a sense of a precocious cleverness with Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, here you get not only that but a real sense of heart as well. As Joel erases the memories of Clementine from his brain, starting from the most recent turbulent times, gradually going back to the exhilaration of first romance, he finds himself wanting to hold on to those early memories. So not only is this another film told backwards but it's also about the preciousness of memory in our lives, as well as a cautionary reminder of what we tend to lose in relationships, and that loss is enormous.
It's a beautiful, intelligent film, you might be forgiven if you find it confusing but no-one is going to miss the impact of the message.
Watch 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'
Monday 14 December, 9:30pm on SBS World Movies (NOTE: No catch-up at SBS On Demand)
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Sci-Fi
Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Tom Wilkinson