This is definitely a belated post. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was released months ago and has been mentioned just about anywhere in the blogsphere. Upon watching the preview for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind I was skeptical with the choice of actors. Jim Carey was never a favorite of mine, in fact I really don't like him at all (he was ok when he was In Living Color) and Kate Winslet, well go see Titanic. The preview also depicted a much lighter, quirky kind of film than it actually is (more on that later). Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the most emotionally dark and volatile films I've seen for a while. Maybe my low expectations hindered my opinion but I saw the overall narrative as near perfect. In The use of non-linear storytelling is not new. It's a cinematic device used by many to convey an emotional response or to connect different themes. This is one of those instances where the use of dreamy montages and reverse narrative actually works.
"Eternal Sunshine" begins with Joel (Jim Carey) walking up on a wintery morning, presumably for work ,and then walking to his car only find a huge dent on the driver's side door. The next scene he is waiting on a train platform headed for the city. Joel then spontaneously dashes on-board a train to Montauk instead and takes the day off. Walking along the beach, he notices an interesting blue haired girl (Kate Winslet as Clementine). We hear his subconscious thoughts about the nature of attraction and love- why he falls in love with anyone who shows him the slightest bit of attention?
Back on the train, the interesting looking girl approaches him and tries to strike up a conversation. Their exchange is rather awkward - they nervously respond to one another, not wanting to say anything "wrong". We soon find out the beginning was a flashback as we soon realize Clementine has erased Joel from her memory after their painful breakup, with the help of Lacuna Inc. the memory erasure specialist. The reverse style narrative starts when Joel decides to do the same- he decides to erase Clementine from his memory. From then on we are in Joel's brain, skipping around in every nook and cranny in a dream-like state. Memory itself physically falls apart, objects disappear, and the emptiness surrounds him. In midst of the memory erasure, Joel realizes he doesn't want to erase Clementine from his memory. We trudge along, witnessing the deconstruction of a relationship through Joel's memory, every heart-wrenching detail of a love affair's end to the beginning- then back in the physical world. The science of cognitive function starts when Joel tries to hide Clementine in his other memories. Memory is perception meaning it's what we find most important or significant.
The narrative style chosen for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind isn't gimmicky. It speaks with emotional truth- devastatingly so.