The Experience of Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind


Amin Shah, Arts & Entertainment Editor

The name of the movie is a mouthful and leaves you with so much to think about, which is only fitting for such a movie like this. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind was released in 2004 and boasts an all-star cast with Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as the lead characters (Joel and Clementine respectively) while an array of side characters portrayed by Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, David Cross, and others take hold. It is a cult classic, and surprisingly not a comedy considering the amount of usually comedic actors on its roster, especially Jim Carrey. Not to say there isn’t any comedy, but this is Jim Carrey’s peak performance as an actor and it is shining bright in this serious, dramatic role (which is something many overlook him as being capable of playing). After viewing this, one learns to appreciate Jim Carrey much more than just the funny guy from ‘‘Dumb and Dumber’’ or ‘‘The Mask’’ (or ‘‘The Grinch’’, which is the only thing some people know him for).

The movie takes place in New York and follows Joel Barish, a stoic wallflower who is extremely introverted. He finds an oppositely extroverted Clementine Kruczynski, who is outgoing and fits the very popular personality type at the time of the movie: the ‘‘manic pixie dream girl’’. It is an archetype utilized to find an ‘‘escape’’ within a love interest who displays very extroverted and unorthodox traits that usually come in to pull the main character out of their comfort zone. These are characters like Ramona from ‘‘Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World’’ or Charlotte from ‘‘Lost in Translation’’ (two other great movies that one could watch that are reminiscent of this one). I would argue that the representation of the archetype is at its best when portrayed through Clementine because she acknowledged the fact that that is her purpose within this story. It is almost like a fourth-wall break for the concept, as she reminds Joel that she is a person with many struggles and mental issues, not a concept or a fantasy meant to ‘‘complete’’ someone (which are her words utilized in the movie).

There really can’t be much detail about the plot because the entire movie seems to be a spoiler for itself (so don’t go watch a trailer), but the thematic symbolism within the movie is something worth noting. The way that there is so much continuity of such small details that the viewer begins to forget until reminded of when brought back up, which is done so masterfully that it allows for a natural plot progression without forcing too much ‘‘sleight of hand’’ by the writers to implement any last-minute changes to create a bump in the road for the movie to make sense plot-wise. The acting is natural as well as the events that occur (other than the otherwise highly advanced technology that the movie centers around, which can pull one out of immersion momentarily). I mean it when I say this is Jim Carrey’s acting peak. No other movie will you find Jim Carrey as emotional while emphatically lacking in trying to find a connection with someone all while struggling to put back a failing relationship together in his mind (it will make sense when you watch it). This and ‘‘The Truman Show’’ are his two cinematic peaks, but this one slightly overpowers the other. It’s like what “Uncut Gems” was for Adam Sandler.

The music suits the tone of the movie very well. At times, very dreary and somber. At other times, expressively depressive. There are a few upbeat peaks covered within the depths of the dread and regret within the movie, which allows the audience to experience the same emotional rollercoaster I did on my first viewing, second viewing, and all those other viewings that had the same emotional effects. The more you watch the sadder it becomes. But it’s a sadness that everyone needs to witness and find within themselves to know what is truly important to them, so in a sense, it is a therapeutic sadness that I believe is healing in a way and can help your mental state in forward momentum. It’s what got me through Covid and the harsh experiences faced, so it is truly an emotionally understanding piece of cinema that I would go out of my way to give it a 10/10 (although if I had the choice, I would remove a scene where Jim Carrey is a baby version of himself, in retrospect that scene only adds to the movie. Watching it isn’t as fun as looking back on it though). It is in no way perfect, but it understands the human condition and the complexity of relationships so well that no other film I’ve watched can compete with (that being said, I have not seen the ‘‘Before’’ trilogy or ‘‘When Harry Met Sally’’, so that opinion may be subject to change soon enough). It is certainly a must-watch, but if you do watch, don’t do it with family. Watching it alone brings out the full emotive experience that being around others may block, and you need that chance to be yourself in how you express and react to the film.