This will be a two-part series showcasing my two absolutely favorite films. Fun fact, I coincidentally watched both on the same day and was emotional both times. Yes, I’m a sucker for films with feels. The second movie is linked here once I have it up.
My favorite film of all time, everybody
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 American drama film written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry. It is a beautiful and intimate science fiction and romance film that posits the question: Given the chance, would you erase the memories of someone that you had once loved?
The film unveils itself first as a meet-cute of two people with completely different personalities. Joel an introverted man meets with Clementine, a free-spirited girl with hair as vibrant as her personality. They meet at a bus on the way to Montauk; a quiet beach spot with not a whole lot going for it. They manage to complement each other at first, and as the show goes on, they form a relationship. Yay!
Unlike most conventional and formulaic romance movies, however, the forming of their relationship does not happen at the end. Oh, no. We’re just getting started.
The stark contrast between their personalities worn both sides out, leading to a sad breakup. And after parting ways, the movie kicks it up a notch and tests their hypothesis into overdrive. Joel stumbled upon Clementine working in a movie store – and instead of an awkward conversation, it spiraled into a matter of bizarre confusion. Clementine does not remember Joel at all.
Joel eventually found out about Lacuna. He visited the clinic to avail of the same service Clementine did. Joel wanted to forget not just the pain of the breakup, but the compounding effect of knowing Clementine used that service as well cause of her own trauma. Uber frightening stuff.
On the night of his scheduled memory erasure, Joel slept for the procedure to begin. His dream-state self had no awareness of what was happening. During this time, we get a good glimpse of the sequence of romantic jubilations between Joel and Clem. The romantic moments and the honeymoon feelings of love and passion were all relived fondly. Until they weren’t.
Like a killing vacuum machine, a metallic machine removed parts of Joel’s memories, one at a time. Lacuna forcibly separated the two still-lovers, and with it, another wave of pain and “what the heck is going on-ery”. All of it was happening at a backward pace, and the procedure ran smoothly with no hitches.
Circling back to Montauk
Until, Joel remembered. “Meet me at Montauk.” The first place where Clem met Joel in real life – and the same place that they should meet in dream-space (cause Joel can teleport at will – his brain, not mine). This was the key to leaving the faintest hint of the existence of Clementine, because dream-Joel desperately did not want to forget about this woman.
After the test, their dream selves have succeeded in leaving a trace of the other’s existence. Joel and Clementine rediscovered their past selves’ failed relationship. Along with this, they did not forget the decisions made by their previous selves. But even with their trials and tribulations, their love, fresh as ever before, triumphed over the guarantee of hurt. To the face of the betrayal that they had both desperately wanted to forget, they shout a resounding “Ok.” to its face, unconcerned and instead motivated to love anew.
Eternal Sunshine’s theme is one that can leave many pondering. Attempting to forget the source of the hurt instead of boldly tackling it head-on is a devastatingly unhealthy coping mechanism. Not only that, but the movie also amplifies that even in the face of uncertainty (or even certainty in the movie’s case, as both Joel and Clem knew why the other is not a perfect person), we should take the plunge anyway to experience growth, maybe even happiness.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a mature film that makes use of a clever premise to portray the flaws of a human desire that may on surface level seem incredibly obvious, but is really not. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a film that is insightful, engaging, evocative, and meaningful.
Favorite quote from the film:
“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!”