Hello friends! It’s time for my monthly entry in my Blind Spot Project. This is the series where I take a look at a critically lauded or fan favorite film I have not seen and see what I think about it. This month being valentines month, I decided to finally watch a film I’ve long heard is a complex romantic story: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This film is directed by Michel Gondry and written by Charlie Kaufman and has the surreal elements one might expect from both individuals.
After watching it, I can see why many love it but I did not enjoy it. I find that to be the case with most of Kaufman’s movies. I get why others love them but they rarely work for me. Eternal Sunshine has the intriguing premise of a procedure where you can erase a person from your memory.
I’ve enjoyed similar movies involving memory. For example, Afterlife by Hirokazu Kore-eda is one of my favorite films. It is all about a way station that asks you to determine your favorite memory. I also enjoy Defending Your Life with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep where they have to defend his memories in a trial at the afterlife. Recently Nine Days came out about a way-station between life and death and memories and I enjoyed that.
My problem with Eternal Sunshine is I found it very surface-level compared to those films. I especially did not enjoy anything that had to do with Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, and Kirsten Dunst. They felt so distracting from our main couple and made it harder to get to the core of what Kaufman is trying to get at with memories. I felt like 60% of the movie was watching them hang out in a dingy apartment with Jim Carrey sitting their under the machine.
When it gets to Carrey’s character Joel and his relationship with Kate Winslet’s Clementine it is better but the movie fails to show why the memories are so devastating. It feels like checking off boxes in the memory department (and manic pixie dream girl trope) more than true devastating memories. Maybe this could have been more impactful if we weren’t’ constantly interrupting the flow of the narrative with Ruffalo flirting with Dunst.
Eternal Sunshine does look beautiful and I admire the creative abstract camerawork by cinematographer Ellen Kuras. I’m surprised she wasn’t nominated for Best Cinematography that year but that’s the Oscars for you.
It actually took me several sittings to finish this film because I was not engaged. Perhaps part of it is I’m more of a fan of relationships starting rather than exploring breakups, (I recently liked the break-up abstract film Wander Darkly but that had way more focus on the couple than this) but I was open to it. Unfortunately it just felt really fractured and distracted from its main premise and something that might have been more interesting as a short (think World of Tomorrow…) than a feature film.
What do you think of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Is it a favorite of yours? Let me know in the comments section
6 thoughts on “Blind Spot 62: ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’”
This is one of the first movies you’ve done in your blind spot series that I’ve actually seen, lol. I remember really enjoying it at the time and thinking it was really interesting and unique. But there may have been less movies dealing with this sort of topic at the time, I’m not sure. I don’t know what I would think of it if I rewatched it now!
A mediocre response to a well written script. The outstanding amount of conflicting paragraphs in this middle-of-the-road review just further presents the reason why this film had been valued and beloved by many.
Found the film hard work and over the top….it tries to hard and fails the reality of life.
The film isn’t deep enough? It’s one of the most deeply profound movies in the last 2 decades.
It has its moments but all the stuff with Ruffalo and Dunst in the apartment did nothing for me. I’m glad you love it
Roger Ebert used to say (paraphrasing) that a movie is not only about its subject but how it’s about its subject — about which you say nothing except how you felt about it. Art criticism is also about how it’s about its subject. Of course, the subject of Eternal Sunshine has been visited before, but how Kaufman and Gondry visit this subject is novel; furthermore, how it’s about its subject ultimately reflects on subtexts, for example, how much our society promotes independence rather than interdependence and moving on rather than exploration and commitment. As for Ruffalo and Dunst, I wonder what you would have made of Shakespeare’s gravediggers. Besides that, here’s a question: how often do we simply trust that so & so has the competence and commitment to do a job that has serious consequences for our well-being. Would Carrey & Winslet chosen to go through with their “severance” if they knew what these characters were doing while they were asleep?