Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Review (Spoiler Free)

eternal_sunshine_of_the_spotless_mindKaufman’s tale of erasing memories is equally heartbreaking and joyful

Unsurprisingly Kaufman’s writing manages to guide us through a labyrinth of memories, heartbreak and regret with a precision that few other writers can muster. It takes a lot of skill to continue to hold onto your audience’s trust when you’re jumping around in time and memory with such seemingly willful abandon,  and yet we always feel safe (just about) in Kaufman’s hands. The film never quite reaches the insightful heights of Adaptation, but it still has a lot to say on human nature, love and regret, with very few false notes along the way.

The two lead cast members are terrific here with Jim Carrey demonstrating just what he can achieve when he isn’t playing Jim Carrey, the man can really deliver and it’s a shame that he too often plays a parody of himself. Few if any films demonstrate his potential better than Eternal. Kate Winslet is an ideal choice for counteracting Carrey here; whilst he is playing an introverted quiet figure, she instead is lively and chaotic and it is a lot of fun to see Winslet in such a role. Both of these actors bring so much charm and fun to their parts that we are often laughing despite ourselves.

I do think that the last third of the film is a little expected, I could see where it was going. But perhaps that’s no bad thing. As we are reaching the climax of the film it is in some respects a relief for the film’s crazed narrative to relax a little. It allows us to connect even closer to the emotional core of the film. Would I have preferred it to have still caught me off guard? Yes. But make no mistake, this is one great film, its expected ending doesn’t stop it from being one of the best films of the last decade.

Summary:

What is the film’s greatest strength? The assured hand with which Kaufman guides us through the film.

Its greatest weakness? A slight predictability within the third act.

Would I see it again? Absolutely – it’s charming, smart, insightful and most of all very entertaining.

Knock out your thoughts in the comment box below!

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36 comments

  1. Good review. And agreed on every point. I actually think this one of the best movies ever. Period.

    1. Cheers! I’m glad to hear that you agree. Have you seen Adaptation?

      1. I have. I like that one, too, though not as much as Eternal Sunshine.

        1. Fair enough… we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one!

          1. Not entirely. Like I said, I think Adaptation is very good. It develops its characters well, has sparkling voice over and is terrifically well acted.

            Our only disagreement is probably in which of the two is better. But that’s a minor point, really. We agree both are good. 🙂

          2. Yes that is true! Maybe when I re-watch Eternal I will change my mind. It’s what happened with Adaptation after all.

  2. Nice review dude. I have to say I didn’t think the last part of the film was too predictable but I don’t have an issue with that argument. It does get a little more straight-forward in the narrative as time winds on, but like you said it’s not enough to throw this thing off-balance. Eternal Sunshine is an immensely rewarding experience. At least it was for me. 🙂

    1. Thanks! Oh it certainly was for me too, and I think I rate it higher than Malkovich (although it has been a while since I saw it). But it doesn’t come close to Adaptation in my eyes! What are you thoughts on how this one compares?

      1. Honestly, I do believe this is my first and so far only Charlie Kaufman experience but it was at least a good one! I’ve heard many good things about Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, but somehow just have never gotten around to seeing them. Perhaps I will soon.

        1. Oh please do!
          The first time I watched Adaptation I wasn’t that impressed. I thought it was good but nothing more… couldn’t have been more wrong!

  3. theipc · · Reply

    Nice work, Ace!!

    1. Cheers buddy!

  4. One of my all time favourites! Excellent review, friend :).

    1. Cheers man! Glad to hear that 🙂

  5. I love this film and I think it surpasses Adaptation. Jim Carrey is magnificent in it. Good review

    1. Cheers!
      Do you like Adaptation then?

      1. Yeah I like it but it didnt stay with me the way Eternal Sunshine did 🙂

        1. Uh huh, fair enough!

  6. One day I will actually have seen one of the films you review – I seem to just use your site as a ‘To See’ list. Great post, though!

    1. Haha sounds good to me Chris!
      I’m very happy to act as your ‘To See’ list!

  7. One of my favorite rom-coms of all time, if not is. I still haven’t decided quite yet. Good review Rumsey.

    1. Cheers buddy, it’s certainly an excellent film!

  8. I’m a big fan of Charlie Kaufman and I have to say this is his best work (though I have not seen Synecdoche, NY yet). He’s one of the best and most ambitious writers out there. Nice review.

    1. Thank you, and yes there is no doubt that he is ambitious!

      What makes you put this above Adaptation and Being John Malkovich?

  9. davecrewe · · Reply

    Good review – this is one of my favourite films of all time. Not sure exactly what you mean by the conclusion being “expected” though – elements of it might be predictable, but its intelligent ambiguity means it stands up to repeated viewings (and believe me, I’ve had many repeated views!)

    1. Thank you! Haha I’m sure you have, and I’m sure I will have in the future.
      I simply mean that by the last act it was apparent how the rest of the film would go for me and the person watching it with me. Nothing terrible, but considering the rest of the film was so inventive and kept us so delightedly surprised it just was worth mentioning here!

      1. davecrewe · · Reply

        I’m curious as to what you expected would happen in the last act then (simply because I’ve seen it a half-dozen-plus times and I still haven’t entirely made my mind up about how exactly to interpret the ending). Not that I disagree that some of the bigger things – eg. Joel and Clementine being sent the tapes – are telegraphed a mile off.

        1. Just the big things really such as the tapes, the Dunst reveal, the fact that he would lose that battle in his memories (although to be fair that is signaled earlier). Also that they would end up in the situation they are in in the hallway (trying to keep as vague as possible for spoilers). The film seemed to be leading to that end.

          Still a great great film though!

  10. Great post. I’d like to see Jim Carrey do something like this again in the future. Some of his films are so throw away that seeing just what he is capable of makes that a real shame.

    1. Thank you, it is a shame as much as I like some of his comedies etc. I do want to watch Man on the Moon and see how he does there. Have you seen it?

      1. No I haven’t seen it but I’ve heard some good things. I should probably add it to my watch list!

        1. Yeah so have I. Let’s hope he is working in a similar vein to that in Eternal!

  11. Excellent review James, this was a good movie!

    1. Cheers Zoë, yeah I have taken far too long to getting around to it!

  12. Hi James! I have this movie on loan from a friend (in fact it’s JJames above who happens to live in my city) Can’t wait to see this but I have a feeling I’d love it.

    Btw, I LOVE LOVE your comment in Keith’s post, putting Dalton as #1. High five!! 😀

    1. Ah nice! I hope you do enjoy it 😀 Have you seen many Kaufman films?

      Haha, in this early post https://mrrumsey.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/which-actor-plays-the-best-james-bond/ I put him fourth place! How times change!

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