Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

What if you could erase from your memory an intense love affair or an entire relationship? Would you do it? Would you want to forget? Most people have met that one person who completely changed the way they thought about relationships and love itself. A relationship so full of color that every memory is equally filled with both joy and dreadful pain. The one who made them want to throw caution to the wind and do crazy things. The love that moved so fast and so intensely, it was impossible not to take a leap of faith by jumping right in. What would have been an ordinary minute without them, turns into a journey filled with awe and joy every step of the way. You think about the future and although it is uncertain, that person is in it. The person you long to come home to.  As time goes by, however, the love which felt so natural and easy at first (because it was based on fantasy as no substantial conversation ever took place) ends in a painful clash of egos and disagreements about potential threats to a future together. How does one move on after meeting ‘the one’?

Clementine was that person for Joel. She was so full of life and wonder that it was impossible not to fall in love with her. Her complete disregard for societal norms were simply too intoxicating for Joel. Clementine’s rhythm beat to her own drum and that’s what made her so alluring and sexy. Unfortunately, those are the same characteristics which later caused Joel so much panic after he realized that he had completely fallen for her. Because she had slept with him on the first night they met, Joel could not help but to wonder, later in the relationship, if Clementine’s liberal attitude towards sex was the reason why she would come home late… could she be cheating on him? Her cheerful spirit and ability to defuse conflict with humor seemed great at first, but not so fun when he was trying to get a straight answer on where their relationship stood. She did try to warn him, she had told Joel that after a while she would feel trapped and that is how relationships worked for her.

Joel loved Clementine very deeply but after a while he had enough. He decided to break up on the wake of what seemed like her having an affair and he immediately began to experience the stages of grief. At first, he was in denial, he was convinced that he had done the right thing. As dopamine withdrawal set in, he began to miss her and wondered if he had made a mistake. He tried to re-establish contact to patch things up, only to find out she had moved on. Confused and hurt Joel entered the stage of anger, where every memory of Clementine filled him with resentment. In a moment of intense pain, he saw an advertisement for a treatment that promised to erase her from his mind. This is where the movie gets really good! Apparently, the treatment was more common than he thought.

I loved the way this movie depicts the stages of love and subsequent grief after a heart break. I also loved the crazy journey inside Joel’s mind after he realizes he does not want to forget Clementine and no longer wants the treatment but it is too late to stop it. Most importantly, the movie invites the audience to wonder what would happen if we erased that memory. Would we ever learn anything from the past or would we repeat the same mistakes? Does ‘the one’ really exist? And if so, how do we know when we found it?

A very subtle artistic touch throughout the movie is that Clementine’s hair seemed to represent the seasons of the relationship. When they first meet in Montauk, Clementine has green hair which is the Springtime of their relationship when things are new and they are first learning about each other. She next has red hair representing Summer and passion and during those scenes they are wild, carefree and joyful. Then it changes to orange representing Autumn and we see their relationship gradually sour. Finally, it becomes blue (called Blue Ruin) indicating the Winter of their relationship and we see it end. But it is not “finally” because when they meet again on the train to Montauk, after having forgotten each other, only the sides of her hair are blue denoting a thaw with Spring to follow. Does this thaw indicate a rebirth of Clementine’s relationship with Joel?

What did you think of this movie? Leave your comments below.

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