(Dir. Michel Gondry) (2004)
How happy is the blameless Vestal’s lot?
The world forgetting, by the world forgot,
Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d…
Thus Pope from Eloisa to Abelard (1717) and Charlie Kaufman spins a story he wrote with the Director and Pierre Bismuth into a modern fable of love under technological trial, where a private company (surely likely to be under investigation by the Securities & Exchange Commission) will review your keepsakes from a listing relationship and then erase the troubled partner from your brain. Cheaper than divorce and safer than murder. Joel (Jim Carrey) finds that Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had the procedure and decides to square the circle. However, things go awry, probably because he’s changing his mind, mid-washing.
This is a tenuous plot at best and it is thanks to the deliberately discordant direction and editing, great and imaginative cinematography and superb performances, that it works so well. Carrey and Winslet achieve the hard balance between tedium and passion, vengeance and forgiveness, in their best performances. A great supporting cast essays a diverse bunch of morally-challenged operators. And one of the Songs of Our Heart gets a lovely treatment (by Beck) as an apt coda.
Just one thing. There’s a touch of chill about the heart here, and we don’t mean the snow out at Montauk Point. Leonard Maltin, so often spot on in his concise reviews, thought that “the film tends to cleverly dance around the roots of emotional and romantic pain rather than fully engage them.”* Right on, Leonard – we couldn’t put it better, so we’re quoting you! Perhaps Alexander Pope can match you though – in the last line of his poem, he observes:
The well-sung woes will soothe my pensive ghost;
He best can paint ’em who shall feel ’em most.[*Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide (2013) p. 421.]