Bittersweet Endings: ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND

eternal sunshineThis is my absolute favorite movie of all time for many reasons, the biggest of which is the ending.  If you’ve never seen this movie, see it now. Now!

Here’s the synopsis from IMDb:

When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a procedure to have each other erased from their memories. But it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with.

**Spoiler warning!**

ETERNAL SUNSHINE asks a huge question–if you could erase your most painful memories–those of love lost–would you do it? And if you erased those memories, what would you be sacrificing in the exchange? (Hint: yourself!)

Jim Carey and Kate Winslet are incredible as the opposites attract couple that complete each other but who are also doomed to spiral into a painful break-up. It’s a movie that drives home Tennyson’s famous quote: “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

The cinematography makes the shift from memory to memory feel visceral and surreal. Joel (Carey) chases Clementine (Winslet) through a sort of dreamscape, rediscovering why he fell in love with her in the first place. In the end, he tries desperately to hold onto her. As he becomes resigned to the inevitable erasure of her memory, he does his best to enjoy the time he has left with her. The writing is superb, the characters honest enough to make me ache for what they lost.

But the best–the absolute best–is after both Joel and Clementine have erased their memories, they almost immediately rediscover each other, drawn together by the wrenching feeling that something is missing. Thanks to a scorned assistant at the memory-erasing clinic, Joel and Clementine find themselves with recordings complaining about each other’s faults. Joel and Clementine know they will eventually hate each other…but they decide to get back together anyway. 

There’s this beautiful looping scene at the end of Joel and Clementine tackling each other in the snow, suggesting they replay this process over and over because the ending can’t matter to them right then. They’re content to enjoy the present. 🙂

There’s a lot more existential fun to be had deconstructing this masterpiece, but that’s the heart of it–what sticks out to me anyway.

Have you seen this movie? What did you think?

Michelle Joyce Bond

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13 thoughts on “Bittersweet Endings: ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND

  1. This is one of my favorites movies, and I felt both actors played so against what they normally did at the time and made it work. You could almost imagine Winslet working as a book slave in a store near you.

  2. I love this movie. I have such a hard time with Jim Carey, but he was perfect in this and Kate Winslet is just plain awesome. There’s such a bitter-sweet vibe to the story… gets me in the feels every time.

  3. Hey there! Before anything else, I just wanna say thanks for liking one of my posts. I love this movie oh so dearly that I literally can’t stop thinking about it ever since the day I first watched it. Your review of Eternal Sunshine is on point! But let me tell you something, you’ll be emotionally scarred if you read the ‘alternate ending’ 😉

  4. I’ve seen the movie, but it was a long time ago and I don’t remember it well. I was probably preoccupied with something when I saw it. My mind tends to wander in that situation, and I later can barely recall what I saw. Maybe I’ll have to revisit it. 🙂

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