#66. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Directed by: Michel Gondry
Written by: Charlie Kaufman (story by Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth)
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was a hard addition to my top 100 list, but only because of how difficult a watch it is. Michel Gondry’s visionary 2004 film is the ultimate story of lost love, regret, and the power that memories hold. Eternal Sunshine is about a man named Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) who is looking to have an experimental memory loss procedure in order to forget about his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet). The couple had disintegrated over time due to their polar opposite personalities, Joel is shy and soft spoken, and Clementine is free-spirited and impulsive. The crew performing the procedure do so from Joel’s bedroom, where they drink, listen to music, and smoke pot on the job as Joel lays sleeping. The film largely takes place inside the mind of Joel, where he begins to regret having the memory wipe procedure, and attempts to save his memories of Clementine. It would be unjust to go too in-depth about the film’s plot, as it really is something viewers should see for themselves. The story is told with a heavy reliance on interesting visuals that cannot be fully explained in words – the memories of Joel Barish know no bounds. The real star of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind comes in the form of writer Charlie Kaufman’s script, which brings a whole host of surrealist ideas, as well as heavy themes of love, loss, and longing, and loneliness. While Kaufman is most famous for writing some of the most bizarrely funny screenplays of the late 90’s and 2000’s (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation., Synecdoche, New York) , Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind seems more focused on telling an intelligent, unique, heartfelt story that most anybody can relate with on some level. Charlie Kaufman’s incredible script combined with Michel Gondry’s visionary direction results in a wholly unique sensory experience – the two artists work together seamlessly, creating one of the best films of the 2000’s. Eternal Sunshine is full of heart wrenching moments, including the opening 15 minutes of the film, which mostly sees our two main characters meeting on a train, setting up the events to come. While we certainly get our fair share of grounded moments, some of the film’s more special moments come in its absurd and bizarre sequences – an example being our two main characters hiding Joel’s childhood memories. The supporting cast of Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst help to further the absurd nature of the film, breaking every workplace rule without even a hint of guilt or regret. On top of Eternal Sunshine’s terrific screenplay and groundbreaking direction, the main performances by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are perfect in every way – both actors completely embody their characters, becoming lost in them for 108 minutes. Jim Carrey is playing against type for his portrayal of Joel – instead of his typically zany, bombastic performance, he’s forced to play a much more meek and subtle character. Kate Winslet’s Clementine is a joy to watch, despite how frustrating the character can sometimes be – she’s impulsive, aggressive, and maybe a little bit manic, but somehow always manages to be funny and sweet when it counts. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a difficult film to be sure, but it’s also one of the very best of the 2000’s – it’s worth every minute of familiar pain.