Joel is stunned to discover that his girlfriend Clementine has had the memories of their tumultuous relationship erased. Out of desperation, he contacts the inventor of the process, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak, to have Clementine removed from his own memory. But as Joel's memories progressively begin to disappear, he begins to discover their earlier passion. From deep within the recesses of his brain, Joel attempts to escape the procedure. As Dr. Mierzwiak and his crew chase him through the maze of his memories, it's clear that Joel can't get Clementine out of his head.
Michel Gondry's film, an angular and intelligent romantic comedy, isn't entirely consistent. Even as you laugh, it's a movie you admire more than love. Mr. Gondry, displaying an impressively quicksilver, scrambling technique, is working with a much better script than he had for "Human Nature," his previous collaboration with the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation"). Kate Winslet is Clem, the brash, loquacious bookstore employee who meets Joel (Jim Carrey) as he wanders the streets alone on Valentine's Day. The two of them fall in love under a glum, flannel cloud cover that could use some eternal sunshine. After they break up, Joel's ego is bruised when he finds out that Clem has had all memories of him erased from her mind. Devastated, he goes for the same treatment. Mr. Kaufman has conjured the film equivalent of a Philip K. Dick Hallmark card. The movie has all of the knickknacks of a Kaufman script, including a nerdy, socially inept protagonist. In the case of "Mind," this translates into Joel's being the least developed character. Mr. Carrey does get to show some aplomb in the final scene, when Joel acts out the most mature sentiment ever found in a Kaufman script, that having one's psyche purged isn't necessarily a good thing. What becomes of the broken-hearted, after the conversation has dimmed, is that they get over it. And by concluding with an adult realization, the film lets sunlight peek through the gloom, in more ways than one. — Elvis Mitchell
2004-03-19 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind