Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Focus
Features presents a film directed by Michel Gondry. Written
by Charlie Kaufman. Running time: 108 minutes. Rated R
(for language, some drug and sexual content). Starring
Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson,
Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo.
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
if we could remove someone from our memories? If we could
erase every last detail about them from our subconscious?
Would it be moral to tamper with someone's mind in any sense,
even to destroy a painful memory? Or, even so, would it benefit
us to destroy said memories?
ideas are all on display in Charlie Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine
of the the Spotless mind, easily one of the most orignal
and brilliant motion pictures in recent memory (competition:
Memento and Kaufman's own Being John Malkovich and
Adaptation). But what makes Eternal Sunshine of
the Spotless Mind more than just a fascinating concept
is that Kaufman and director Michel Gondry have used a wonderful
and touching romance to explore their deeper ideas. What they
have provided us is an exploration of human nature and emotions,
a film about love and making it work.
romance is between Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) and Clementine
Kruczynski (Kim Winslet). Joel is shy and quiet, Clementine
impulsive and needy; what would initially seem to keep them
apart draws them together: Joel likes Clementine's energy,
and he gives her a sense of security. But soon these differences
come between them. Joel tires of Clementine's unpredictable
emotions and a confrontation erupts. Clementine rushes out
of the house, and soon after Joel sees the following letter:
Kruczynski has had Joel Barish erased from her memory. Please
never mention their relationship to her again. Thank you."
is crushed. He goes to the place listed on the card, Lacuna
Inc., to find out what's going on. He talks to Dr. Howard
Mierzqwiak (Tom Wilkinson), who assures Joel that it is not
a hoax, and that Clementine really has had him him erased
from her mind. He rashly decides to follow suit and requests
to have all memories of Clementine irradicated. But as the
erasure is occurring, he decides he no longer wants to forget
Clementine and attempts to counteract the procedure by hiding
the memories of Clementine in the recesses of his subconscious.
majority of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind takes
place in Joel's mind as he and Clementine run from the procedure.
It is in these scenes that Gondry's trademark visual flair
(he hs directred music videos for Bjork and The White Stripes)
is used to great effect. Stationary objects and backgrounds
disappear mid-scene as Joel's memories are erased.
rest of the film involves the Lacuna workers. One of the assistants
working on Joel, Patrick (Elijah Wood), has taken Joel's memories
and used them to get with Clementine. The other assistant,
Stan (Mark Ruffalo), and his girlfriend, Mary (Kirsten Dunst),
get stoned and dance around Joel in their underwear, effectively
setting off Joel's rebellion. The secretary at Lacuna, Mary
has a much larger arc to play out. Not to give anything away,
but her actions form the emotional base of the denouement.
while this is all good and well, Eternal Sunshine of the
Spotless Mind is about one thing: the relationship between
Joel and Clementine. We see them together briefly between
the plot begins proper, and then we are given the details
of their relationship in flashbacks. Despite their differences
and imperfections, these are two characters we care about,
and we want them to be together. As Joel slowly realizes that
he will lose his memories of Clementine forever, the sense
of loss is heartbreaking. The conclusion is honest and beautiful;
this is the first time Kaufman has been able to keep the finale
of one of his films up to the same level of the rest of the
the film are Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. Carrey is cast utterly
against type - here he is shy, quiet onee, and his is a performance
of unbelievable range and depth, easily the best of his career.
Winslet, flawlessly essaying an American accent, is pitch
perfect. Clementine could be a grating or annoying character,
but Winslet crafts her into a real yet flawed person. Elijah
Wood, Mark Ruffalo and Tom Wilkinson (especially) are effective,
but the supporting stand-out is Kirsten Dunst, in a touching,
out, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an amazing
motion picture, the first bona fide masterpiece of 2004, and
the best film I've seen this year to date. I don't care whether
it sounds appealing or not; go see it, and support brilliance
with your dollars. You will not be disappointed, I guarantee
2004 Matt Noller