Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (15)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/04/2004

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 108 mins

Brilliantly written, emotionally mature, moving film with terrific performances all round – this is easily one of the best films of the year.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the latest film from the twisted mind of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, the man behind Being John Malkovich, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Adaptation. The title comes from a poem by Alexander Pope and it’s directed by Michel Gondry (who also came up with the initial idea for the film), the acclaimed video director whose debut feature, the straight-to-video Human Nature, was also written by Kaufman.

The result is one of those rare films where everything seems to come together: the script is an emotionally mature, brilliant piece of work, the direction is impeccable and the performances are nothing short of stunning.

Ex-Girlfriend Erases Memory

Jim Carrey gives his best dramatic performance to date as Joel Barish, a seemingly unremarkable guy with permanent stubble and a hangdog expression. When he discovers that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had her memories of him erased he visits the offices of Lacuna Inc. and decides to have the same procedure, only to change his mind halfway through.

Meanwhile, the doctor (Tom Wilkinson) and stoned co-workers at Lacuna Inc. (Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood) each have their own sub-plots that subtly echo the main story.

The performances are simply wonderful: Carrey drops all traces of his manic comedy persona and plays it completely straight – as a result, he’s achingly good, particularly in the scenes where he’s desperately clinging to his rapidly-fading memories of Clementine. Winslet is simply terrific, at first coming off as rather prickly and unlikeable and only gradually revealing the qualities that attracted Joel to her. Her ever-changing hair colour works well, too – not just as a character trait but also to help keep track of a plot that is, unsurprisingly, less than linear.

The supporting characters are equally good, with Kirsten Dunst as the standout, particularly during her later scenes. Elijah Wood has perhaps the least developed role, but he’s suitably creepy as the Lacuna employee who falls for Clementine and uses her stolen memories to try and get her into bed.

As for Gondry’s direction, it is both assured and inspired. For a film with such a sci-fi type premise, you might expect flashy, glossy, over-the-top direction, but Gondry keeps everything very low-key, which makes the striking imagery of the memory sections (a bed on a beach, a disappearing bookshop) all the more effective.

Stays With You Long After Leaving Cinema

Fittingly for a film about the memories of a relationship, there are moments in this film that will stay in your mind long after you leave the cinema. There are also some delightful touches, such as the use of the song “Oh My Darling Clementine” (with its haunting line, “She’ll be lost and gone forever”) and the detail on the various ‘memory tapes’ we hear.

As with its memory-movie cousin Memento, the structure of the film is initially complex, but this pays off brilliantly when you realise what’s going on. In addition, the note-perfect climax of the film is as thought-provoking and moving as it is emotionally mature. Oddly enough, the film has a lot in common with Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, in that it presents a similar portrait of a relationship via cinematic trickery and also reaches a similar conclusion: that the joy of love is worth the pain of breaking up.

In short, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is easily one of the best films of the year. It’s the sort of film you’ll want to see again immediately, it’s that good. Unmissable.

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Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (15)
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Content updated: 22/10/2017 16:34

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