Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 15
  • Drama, Romance
  • 2004
  • 108 mins

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Film4 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Synopsis

Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet star as a couple who exploit a revolutionary memory-erasing technique. Unique romantic comedy from the pen of Charlie Kaufman, directed by Michel Gondry

About

Michel Gondry's first collaboration with contemporary Hollywood's most original screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, was 2001's Human Nature, a film that never received a theatrical release in the UK and sat in unfavourable comparison with the films the writer made with Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation).

Undeniably, Human Nature was a disappointment - primarily because it didn't capture the genius Gondry had displayed in his innovative, inventive pop promos for the likes of Björk, Massive Attack, Daft Punk and Kylie Minogue. Thankfully, that problem is rectified here. Furthermore, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind boasts a quality cast and has leading man Jim Carrey burying that irritating comic persona under a compelling piece of characterisation.

Carrey plays Joel Barish, a reserved, repressed New Yorker who's at his most expressive when musing to himself or scribbling in his journal. He's a decent man, but his introspection exasperates his aggressive, extrovert girlfriend Clementine Kruczynski (Winslet) to the point that she's had enough. Their relationship deteriorates to such an extent that Clem takes advantage of a procedure offered by Lacuna Inc, a "revolutionary painless non-surgical memory-erasing process".

When Joel visits Clem at work to try and make amends for a falling out they had, she doesn't recognise him. Joel only discovers the truth when friends show him a card from Lacuna informing him he's been erased from Clem's memory and shouldn't try to contact her. Heartbroken and desperate, Joel decides to try the procedure for himself, despite his incredulity. "This is a hoax right? There's no such thing as this," he says to Dr Howard Mierzwiak (Wilkinson), the genial, paternal inventor of the system.

To initiate the process, Mierzwiak's employees Stan (Ruffalo), his lover and Lacuna receptionist Mary (Dunst), and assistant Patrick (Wood) visit Joel as he sleeps. The plot thickens, however, when it transpires that Patrick has stolen Joel's personal effects from his relationship with Clem and is using them to woo her himself. Worse still, as Stan begins to erase Joel's memories, starting from the present and working backwards, Joel rediscovers the good things he had with Clem. Desperately, trapped in his own unconscious, Joel tries to stop the destruction of his memories.

It's the combination of a framing narrative, set in the real world, and the action that takes place within Joel's mind (which skitters around as our hero tries to escape deeper into his memory) that gives Kaufman and Gondry's film its most marked idiosyncrasy. As well as offering Kaufman's requisite look at the boundaries of fantasy and reality, it's also perfect for Gondry's own brand of distinctive storytelling ploys, employing some wonderfully lo-fi but amazingly clever trickery.

Overlapping and cross-cutting have been a mainstay of his video work - a camera browsing round a tower block for Massive Attack's 'Protection', Kylie encountering versions of herself for 'Come Into My World', Dave Grohl segueing in and out of dreams for 'Everlong'. The devices he created and expertly exploited in the promos are expanded and honed for Eternal Sunshine, creating a unique feel as he realises Kaufman's non-chronological, consciousness/unconsciousness-inhabiting script.

However, there's a lot more to the film than technique. Arguably, this is Kaufman's most humane work yet, presenting genuine emotional circumstances within its bizarre, semi-sci-fi scenario. There's a moving realism to Joel and Clem's romance and the problems they face in their relationship - ordinary stuff like settling into routines, communicating in different ways, being distanced by things unsaid, as well as the heavier implications of mental illness. Human Nature was arguably overwhelmed by its wackiness, and even Being John Malkovich is unsubtle in comparison with Eternal Sunshine. It's a slow-burner initially, but ultimately a gentle, tender portrayal of relationships and a remarkable romantic comedy.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Carrey, Elijah Wood, David Crossan
  • Director: Michel Gondry
  • Screen Writer: Charlie Kaufman
  • Producer: Anthony Bregman, Steve Golin
  • Photographer: Ellen Kuras
  • Composer: Jon Brion

In a nutshell

A special meeting of minds between Kaufman (who seems to represent at least 80 per cent of the imagination in Hollywood's screenwriting gene pool) and Gondry. The fact that Jim Carrey gives the best turn of his career so far doesn't hurt either.

by Daniel Etherington

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 None Shall Escape

    None Shall Escape

    As the trial to determine whether a former German military officer is guilty of war crimes unfolds , his career is shown through flashback.

    On Film4: 1 Jun 5:25PM

  • Film4 The Sitter

    The Sitter

    Jonah Hill stars as a slacker who's forced to fill in as a babysitter for a night, but the kids he's looking after prove more than he can handle when he takes them on a crime-filled trip through NYC

  • Film4 Evil Dead

    Saturday Night Shocks on Film4

    Horror, mystery and suspense stake its claim on the weekend. A new season of Saturday Night Shocks comes to Film4.

  • Film4 Bridesmaids

    Comedy Season 2015 on Film4

    Eight nights of contemporary comedy hits, including first plays of Cuban Fury, American Reunion, The Sitter, and the network premiere of 21 & Over, on Film4

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Film4 enjoys double Cannes success

    Film4-backed films pick up two awards at the Cannes Film Festival... [caption id="attachment_4558" align="alignnone" width="600"] Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz star in The Lobster[/caption] At the

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Hang: the trailer

    Watch the trailer for a new play from Second Coming director Debbie Tucker Green. Film4 are pleased and proud to be working with acclaimed playwright Debbie Tucker Green on her debut feature film Sec

Rent now on Film4od

Available to rent for £2.49

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Interview

  • Film4 Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

    Michel Gondry

    on finding a kindred spirit in screenwriter Charlie Kaufman

Share