In Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, 40-year-old French-born director, Michel Gondry, takes us on an alternative journey into the realms of consciousness, memory and love. All this might sound a little odd coming from a filmmaker who is best known for directing music videos for the likes of Bj? Radiohead and the Chemical Brothers and whose only other feature was Human Nature (2001). The latter was written by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) and he is the link between Gondry’s two films.
We all fall in and out of relationships and Gondry pondered the idea of receiving a card in the mail which read -˜you have been erased from the memory of x’. He and Kaufman then came up with a script whose odd title is based on the Alexander Pope poem Eloisa To Abelard. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is the perfect antidote to the current stream of fairy floss pouring out of Hollywood and features a stellar, if unusual, cast.
Jim Carrey, in his second serious role featuring memory loss, plays Joel, the awkward unlucky-in-love illustrator, to perfection. Odd though it is, Carrey inhabits the role and uses his skills as a comedian to enhance the humour of the film. Apparently Gondry considered Nicolas Cage for the role but I doubt he could have pulled off what Carrey achieves. Kate Winslet, who hasn’t turned 30 yet but already has three Oscar nominations since she made her debut in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (1994), plays Clementine, as in Oh my darling Clementine, a girl questing for the perfect hair colour with names like Agent Orange and Blue Ruin. Winslet and Carrey -“ who would have imagined such an odd couple? Yet, they are totally believable and their relationship in the film is tangible. In supporting roles are Elijah Wood, proving that he can do more than hobbits, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst and the evergreen Tom Wilkinson. All the performances complement this left-of-centre romance story.
Much of the film is shot in winter on Montauk Point, the easternmost part of New York’s Long Island. Ellen Kuras, who won awards for her work on Personal Velocity (2002), brings the same skills to this film.
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is a funny yet poignant take on what we remember inside our heads about the people we love and what is really real on the outside. It is an outstanding film even if a little intermittent and implausible at times. Despite the wacky notions underpinning the film the performances are strong enough to carry the story to the end. It looks like Eternal Sunshine won’t be the last Gondry exploration of memory and dreams since he is in pre-production for his next feature, The Science Of Sleep, set in Paris and starring Patricia Arquette and Alain Chabat.