Review: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- Loneliness and Pushing To Be Perfect

Everybody’s gotta learn sometime…

There hasn’t been a film where the feeling of letting someone go was so painful and sad as in the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Directed by Michel Gondry, the story follows the quiet introverted Joel Barish, played by Jim Carrey, who falls in love with a woman named Clementine Krucyznski, played by Kate Winslet. The two had a long and tumultuous relationship before but chose to erase their minds, completely forgetting their history from when they first met. 

This movie feels like it was meant to be watched by yourself. I remember just picking it up during the early summer of this year. I was still in a pretty low place so I needed something to raise my spirits, or at least give me some clarity. I found it through this movie, sitting at my desk and watching it with the lights off. The opening scene will forever be stuck in my mind: Joel is walking through a snowy New York while the title theme is playing in the background. It was at this point that I knew I was in for something special.  

As said before, the main aspect of the story was the fact that the two main characters decided to erase the memories they had of being together, completely, instead of just letting their memories fade away. They hated each other so much that they would rather completely forget about their partner instead of letting them go. But Joel realizes his mistake during his erasure, remembering all the good memories that he and Clementine had together. So he tries his best to fight the procedure and retain any memories he had with her.

I have to say this right out of the bat, but this movie is weird. Even though I am a late 2000s person, this movie just screams early 2000s. From the many weird effects that are used, such as removing an actor’s face or rotating their eyes, the cast consists of Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, and Elijah Wood. Not to mention the absolutely smooth transitions in the movie. It’s not your typical rom-com, that is why I love it so much. The location is like Montauk Beach, the frozen lake with a crack on it and the train station all feel so hazy, like going through a long dream that will stay with you forever. 

However, I believe the beauty of the film comes from its depictions of loneliness and trying to be perfect. Joel is so socially awkward he keeps to himself most of the time, writing in his journal about his feelings towards Valentine’s Day and just how desperate he is to find someone he can love. Whereas Clementine is all over the place, her impulsive character leads to her not having a consistent partner. She is trying her best to lie down and find someone but she just can’t do so. As a result, she keeps to herself and dyes her hair in many colors. She’s trying to prove that she does have everything under control but in reality…not so much. Both these characters are too harsh on themselves, they want to be the ideal happy couple. The ones that rarely argue, are constantly happy with each other, and the children that they’re going to have as well; taking each day with a positive outlook. And while that sounds nice, it just isn’t the case. There is never going to be a perfect relationship. You have to make the most of what you have and don’t try to force it. Even when it’s not working out, it’s okay. It’s better to have let them go than to have constant negative thoughts about it. Joel, as well as Clementine, finally understand this. Instead of fighting it, Joel accepts the erasure, completely letting go of his love.

I love the fact that the movie isn’t aiming to be the perfect love story, it wants to depict the messiness of human relationships and it does it so well. Friends, Lovers, Parents, Siblings, they are all hard to maintain. We get jealous of people having so many friends, the hottest girlfriend or boyfriend, the coolest brothers, and sisters, it makes us jealous. “Why can’t I have that?” or “Why can’t I have a girlfriend/boyfriend?”. It’s in the thinking that if we just have what all of our peers have, we will be happy. But no, it’s not that simple. It isn’t just one way where you automatically feel better and your partner is there just to make you happy. You have to see it both ways and work through your differences together. There is no harm in being alone, give it some time; I’m sure that you will find that person. Even if you don’t have any luck, then work on yourself. This isn’t a race, take your time and appreciate yourself first. 

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot?

The world’ forgetting by the world forgot.

Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.

Each prayer accepted and each wish resigned.

Raymond is the cartoonist for The Woodstocker.

Edited by Keerat.

2 thoughts on “Review: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- Loneliness and Pushing To Be Perfect

  1. I love this film … it’s one of my absolute all time favourites … up there with Napoleon Dynamite!
    Your analysis is insightful and thoughtful Raymond … and you touch upon the essence of not only the moral stance of the film but also of life, love and the finer nuances of our human complexities.


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