Romance and Romcom movies aren’t normally my thing, but what made me want to see this movie was mainly Charlie Kaufman’s credit as the writer after I saw, and enjoyed, I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020). And much like that film, this one largely takes place inside the main character’s brain. Also like that film, it’s the sort of thing you don’t want spoiled if you’re at all interested in watching it, so bare that in mind going forward in this review.
The story follows a man called Joel (Jim Carrey) who realises his ex-girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet), has undergone an experimental procedure to erase him from her memory. He’s so hurt by this that he decides to undergo the procedure to erase her from his memory too. We then go through all his memories being erased, only for him to realise what a mistake he’s making after the happy ones begin to fade too. After trying and failing to somehow fight to keep his memories, Joel plants a seed in his brain to go back to where he first met Clementine. When he goes there she is waiting for him, as it turns out she had a seed of him left in her brain too and both have some amount of regret regarding what happened between them despite their lack of memory about their shared past.
For all the analysis I’ve seen people write up about this film online, I think the reason I like it so much comes down to one simple thing; I’m still thinking about it days after watching. When a movie sticks with you for that long, you know it’s something special. The reason it stuck with me if because it’s so heartfelt, I think. Jim Carrey gives a very sincere performance here – it’s a much less comedic role than what he’s normally seen in, and yet I couldn’t imagine anyone else but him playing the character. This doesn’t mean he’s not funny – he is – but that he’s a little more grounded here. The same goes for Kate Winslet and the energy she brings to Clementine.
There were a handful of subplots going on between the moments we spend with these two. Mostly between the people who are erasing Joel’s memory. It’s revealed that some of them have also had their memories erased and, upon realising it, regret it immediately and spiral into existential crisis’. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t really a fan of these parts of the movie. They weren’t bad or anything, but I’d have rather stuck with the two main characters. That said, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood and Tom Wilkinson are all decent supporting characters who give similarly good performances.
This movie does make you think. You have to be actively watching to get the full experience and pick up on the foreshadowing, inconsistencies and potentially predict the slight twist at the end of the memory wipe.
I think it’s telling how much I took away and enjoyed of this film considering I’m normally disinterested in the genre. So yeah, I would absolutely recommend Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s sincere, heartfelt and also just plain enjoyable. And while I did say it’s less comedic than a lot of Carrey’s previous films, there’s still definetly laughs to be had and they almost all work.