A quick thought off the top of my head that came to me while I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that ultimately hit me much harder now, given how I usually live out as a pessimistic soul always living in fear of the worst. In person, I’m an incredibly shy introvert who always resorts to the comfort of my own self and thus I have always found communication with those outside of my circle so difficult, something contradictory to how I am online. Recently, I confessed to a friend whom I talked with very often on social media that I had a crush on her. And there’s an inner awkwardness that just gets to me again because I was unsure how she felt with this knowledge coming to her even with her responding that she was flattered, and the likeliness of us meeting up in real life. And already, I’ve drawn myself away from the film itself, but I keep entering a certain mood swing after what Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is leaving me to think of.
Going back on topic with the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind explores the fundamentals of a relationship, at least within such a quirky fashion in line with the usual scripts of Charlie Kaufman. Jim Carrey stars as Joel Barish, a shy and soft-spoken individual who reminds me of my own self on a regular day. His girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski, has broken up with him and also erased the memories of her own relationship together with Joel, so it is not long enough before Joel decides he will head to the institute responsible for the erasure so he can have the procedure performed upon himself. And yet, is it really something that he wants to have happened for the betterment of his own self? Kaufman leaves that question for those who watch the cleverness of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind hit up close for themselves.
I have a funny history with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – as it was actually the first R-rated film I ever saw fully and back then, I was ten years old. At that point of my life, I never understood what it was that went on the whole time and yet when I look where I am now, having already experienced a relationship (one which failed) and carrying a desire to find comfort in something other than myself while at the same time sticking inside of a hopeless mindset, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind speaks out to me more than it ever has. As I revisit the film more, I find a part of myself thanking Charlie Kaufman for what he has managed to bring into my life, for I feel the time in which I saw it at an age too young to understand everything going on, perhaps it could have been a warning for what was set in motion inside of my life.
A specific challenge in regards to relationships after deterioration is the concept of letting go – because that’s the hardest part. When I broke up with my past girlfriend years back, a part of me had been broken away and I only confined myself all the more. I trapped myself inside of a chamber of emptiness, and it was not long before I thought to myself that even if I wanted to forget those memories, I couldn’t – because I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to let go of moments in which I felt a sense of comfort in another. I didn’t want to let those moments in my life go at all, because they were times in which I ever felt happy amidst most of the misery that has shrouded me whether it be in my general outlook on life or the fact that I have always found it so difficult to find someone else that I felt comfortable talking with, for they would listen. Thankfully, we’re still friends, but I couldn’t help but think only of how I felt a sense of happiness in those moments together. Thus the moment in which we try to let go, it only saddens me because at the last minute, we realize they also have helped define us for what we are – something Kaufman addressed so brilliantly within Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It works to showcase brilliance in both its structuring and on a technical level through the editing techniques employed under Michel Gondry’s eye.
But maybe there was something else that Charlie Kaufman was aiming for in here with the absurd structure of the film. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is established as a fragmented film that intercuts past with present, like a collection of memories as they come together. Whatever do they range from, the fond or the sad, all of them just help define what we are. If we end up forgetting them the way Clementine had chosen to, the realization of the importance of their impact on what she is comes to hit her like a hammer. It was clever enough how Charlie Kaufman writes in another employee for Lacuna service as a reminder for Clementine about why these moments are so important through Elijah Wood’s Patrick, a man who attempts to recreate Joel’s memories to have Clementine for herself.
Though there’s another thing that one would first be thinking upon the way the workers of Lacuna are written. Given how they act as they perform the procedures, whether it be from Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst’s characters being morally inept slackers who have taken comfort in their carefree antics, but a sense of realization can be felt when one observes the look on Kirsten Dunst’s face after more revelations come about during the procedure, which shine a light to herself. It would already be clear from this moment that Kaufman had her arc assembled in a manner to which she resembles a girl amidst her coming-of-age, realizing what these moments will do upon her own life the way in which Joel realizes how his unwanted memories have done the same for him. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a film about these moments and how one must acknowledge how crucial they are in our lives, especially in regards to what we are.
I’m clearly in yet another mood swing because I’ve left behind another mess in what I’ve written, and if I’m being honest I do dislike most of my own writing, and yet I do it anyway because I know there’s a crowd that actually wants to listen. But for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, there’s a part of me that is thankful a film like this has come into my own life. There’s a part of me that is also destroyed because every time in which I watch it, Jim Carrey’s performance as the introverted Joel rings far too true to myself and much to the point that I can’t ever help myself but think about the moments in which I ever felt such comfort. If it weren’t clear enough, I already wrote this piece in the frustration of my own awkwardness because I admitted to my friend that I have feelings for her – and even with her response I don’t even know how I can take it in, because of how far apart we are. Maybe I’m far too hopeless about where things are headed for me. Thank you, Charlie Kaufman, thank you, Michel Gondry, for leaving me in this messy emotional state again.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Focus Features.
Directed by Michel Gondry
Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman
Produced by Steve Golin, Anthony Bregman
Starring Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Tom Wilkinson
Release Year: 2004
Running Time: 108 minutes