Fantastic Confusion of the Puzzled Viewer


This past week I had the pleasure of viewing Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. At least, I think I did. I'm not entirely sure that it was a movie and I wasn't just suffering from a slightly sleep-deprived delusion. 

The film begins with us watching the main character, Joel Barish (Jim Carrey), waking up. Oddly comforting/neutrally happy music plays as Joel sits up, kicks off his sheets, and stares at himself looking absolutely perplexed with his choice of matching green pajamas. At least we're all in the same confused boat, right? 

Other than that, Joel begins what most would consider a rather boring Valentine's Day morning, describing himself as woken up in "a funk" when he spontaneously takes a train to Montauk. He writes about his trip in his journal, his first entry in two years. 

While in Montauk, Joel sees a girl on the beach, and later she sparks a conversation with him on the train. As they keep talking, Joel's general neutral personality seems to clash with this mystery girl's strange, colorful personality mirrored by her hair. As viewers, we automatically assume that this girl, introducing herself as Clementine (Kate Winslet), is the love interest for Joel. Which seems strange at first, since they are obviously very different people, but we are so accustomed to this boy meets girl happily-ever-after trend in movies, we think nothing of their assumed soon-to-be budding romance.

Later, Joel sees Clem and offers to drive her home. After a bit of awkward conversation, Joel joins Clem for a drink in her apartment. The two drink and talk for a while. Before Joel leaves, Clem gives him her number asking him to call. The set up a date for the next night, going out to a frozen lake. They spend the night together, and Clem asks to stay at Joel’s house. When he says yes, she runs inside to grab her toothbrush. A man knocks on Joel’s window asking him a few questions and the scene fades away as Joel waits.

After a nearly 18 minute introduction, the credits start onscreen as we see Joel crying in his car with a sad song playing in the background. The song ends as he pulls the tape from the deck, and the music is replaced with a quizzical-sounding tune that sounds like a combination of Flight of the Bumblebee and the Jeopardy theme.

And so begins the confusion.

From this point on, the film begins to jump around from the day before Valentine’s Day, to three days before. We learn of Joel and Clem’s break up and the infamous Lacuna Inc. At this point, in the film we see Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Patrick (Elijah Wood) for the second time, but actually meet them for the first. We are also introduced to Mary (Kristen Dunst) and Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson). At Lacuna, we learn that Clementine had Joel erased from her memory. Joel quickly decides to have Clementine removed from his from memory too.

The scenes begin to flash around and as Joel’s memories are being erased, starting from the most recent. As he progresses though, Joel changes his mind, wanting to save some of the better memories he had of him and Clem.

I have to stop here at serious risk of spoiling the film.

The film really delves into the post-break-up emotions in a way that hasn't really be done before. The idea of erasing the memory of your significant other is an idea that has probably been appealing to a lot of people at one point or another. Eternal Sunshine toys with the question of ‘it is really worth it?’ Which is the best cliffhanger I can give.

Eternal Sunshine is a movie that you either hated, or wanted to watch again. If you're looking for a film to add to your post-break up movie marathon between Dirty Dancing and First Wives Club, this is definitely not the one for you, no matter what Buzzfeed says. 

I would highly recommend this movie to anyone looking for something to challenge the way you think. Eternal Sunshine really makes you question your beliefs, and when you watch it for the second or third time, it makes you question your senses. You begin to pick up on little details you ignored the first time. This is one of those movies that you could watch ten times, and find something new each time.

Before you watch, I have to tell a short story. I thought I would be proactive and take notes on the film so I would be able to write the review a bit easier. I quickly learned my lesson. The last thing I wrote was "Frodo's eyes upside down??" and at that point I made the executive decision that multitasking during this film just wasn't going to work. So let that be your warning, if you're going to watch this movie, actually watch it. I mean put the phone away, stop writing that report or whatever you're doing. Eternal Sunshine is a film that needs 100% of your attention. If you can dedicate this time, it's definitely worth it the fantastic confusion. 

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Fun Fact, this is pretty much word for word, the paper I just wrote. I know you usually have to get the prof's permission to double dip with some papers, but you think they're going to care about the blog? That'll be some really awkward explaining to the board if they catch me for "plagiarism." Does it count if you plagiarize yourself?
I'm gonna hope not!

Writing to you from M, Personally