Directed by Michael Gondry and based on Academy Award nominee Charlie Kaufman’s original screenplay, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is a backwards love story-literally. Out of desperation, Barish decides to go through the same procedure to erase his own troubling memories of Kruczynski. As he relives their happiest memories, however, he realizes that he is falling in love with her all over again. Barish tries to stop the procedure mid-way by taking Kruczynski back to a maze of memories of which she was not originally a part; from being bathed by his mother to playing outdoors with friends to running away on a snowy beach. The movie becomes the race between the eraser guys invading Barish’s brain for memories of Kruczynski and Barish’s own desperate attempts to hide from them.
Shot by hand-held cameras, the film feels completely trippy and naturalistic, adding to the surreal experience that the audience has from inside Barish’s head. Carrey and Winslet are phenomenal in their roles and truly show the wide range and variety of characters they can portray as first-rate actors. Carrey, like in many of his other comedies, plays a shy and socially inept guy, while Winslet, most famously known for her role in “Titanic,” is a wacky, impulsive free spirit who constantly dyes her hair color going from blue to orange to red. Even the supporting cast, which includes Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Tom Wilkinson-the memory erasure company-play completely developed characters who leap off the screen with sheer pain, joy and vulnerability. Both Dunst and Wood play dark characters who get stoned and steal other people’s identities, a stark contrast from their straight-edged roles in “Spiderman” and “Lord of the Rings,” respectively.
Though the style of this film is very similar to Kaufman’s past works including “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation,” the major difference is the romance element of the story. What’s quite brilliant about this movie is that it is a love story that is completely unique; it leaves you thinking about memories, about relationships, about the good and the bad. It is not the idealized love of his and hers, lets-get-old-together L-O-V-E, but a naked experience that is heavily dependent on memories. It is absolutely bizarre and complex, yet it is told in such a way that it makes perfect sense. The title is taken from a Alexander Pope poem: “How happy is the blameless vestibule! Rid forgetting, by the world forgot. Sunshine of the spotless mind!” Regardless of whether you agree with this idea or not, the movie is an extraordinary journey worth taking.