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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Rated R

Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, and Kirsten Dunst

Rating:
*****
out of
*****

What if it was possible to selectively erase memories from your mind? In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the latest work by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, a company named Lacuna, Inc. has developed a process that will do just that.

Joel (Jim Carrey) has discovered that his impulsive girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had all of her memories of him erased. Despondent and feeling a bit betrayed, he contacts Lacuna to have her erased from his memory. Halfway through the process he discovers that he doesn't really want to lose his memories of her and so begins a tug-of-war between Joel and the technicians from Lacuna for control of his memories of Clementine.

What could have simply been a straightforward science fiction film turns into a bittersweet romance thanks to the quirky direction of Michael Gondry and the script by Charlie Kaufman. Kaufman, who is no stranger to probing the workings of the mind in his previous material (Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, for example), has penned his masterwork here. Eternal Sunshine captures the emotional pang that occurs when someone has good memories about a bad relationship without ever becoming maudlin.

Carrey's performance is the most understated he's ever given and it works perfectly for the shy, introverted Joel. Winslet is excellent as the crazy, unpredictable Clementine. There is tangible chemistry between Clementine and Joel that makes the audience care about the characters and the circumstances they're forced to endure as their memories of each other begin to disappear. Supporting roles by Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Wilkinson provide a subplot involving some goings-on behind-the-scenes at Lacuna, Inc. While the subplot isn't necessary it does allow the film to comment on the moral issues involving the potential misuse of the memory-erasing technology.

While some moviegoers may find Gondry and Kaufman's non-sequential storytelling a bit trying, those with patience will find that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is worth the effort. It's one of those intricate films that benefit from multiple viewings as there are plenty of subtle clues thrown into every scene that actually mean something.

Trivia: Before Jim Carrey expressed in interest in playing Joel, Nicolas Cage was considered for the role. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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