Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet co-star in a bittersweet romance from the fertile imagination of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, whose previous films include Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and directed by French-born Michel Gondry. Alan Silverman has a look at Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.
Opposites certainly attract in the case of talkative Clementine and taciturn Joel when they meet, by chance, on a commuter train.
But the encounter might not be by chance and they may have gone through all this before. It all seems new because they fell in love, argued and split up; then, thanks to a novel medical procedure, each has had all memories of the other erased.
While the story has whimsical turns, Jim Carrey as Joel is serious and introspective, with none of the joking around and comic antics for which he's famous; but Carrey insists the character is not without humor.
"He is not a humorless character at all," insists Carey. "I think Joel has immense and amazing things going on inside his brain that spill out onto his page when he's doing his diaries and things like that. When Clementine comes by she is kind of like the outward manifestation of what he has inside of himself, but he can't express. I don't think he is humorless or uninteresting. I think he's really complex.
Kate Winslet gets to cut loose as the spontaneous Clementine, but the heart of the romance draws her in.
"I just love the fact that here was a very simple love story about two people who were the polar opposites of each other, but had this crazy relationship together that was very real. They had good times and bad times and then that's it," she says. "They are meant to be together; in truth, I really believe that. They try to erase each other from each other's lives and as the movie goes on and you watch those memories being erased from most recent to most past, you realize how fantastic they were together and how they really do love each other and really did have some great times. So it all sort of happens in reverse and it's the telling of the tale that makes it more unorthodox."
Of course, "unorthodox" is a mild way of describing this (or most any) script by imaginative screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, who says if the story seems confusing to describe, that is what he intended.
"I think definitely in this movie confusion and finding their way is part of the process. There's a lot of confusion in Joel's mind and we wanted the audience to be with that for a while to feel what Joel is feeling," Kaufman says. "The audience is almost with Joel every step of the way. When he first meets Clementine at the beginning of the movie he thinks it's the first time they've met and we think that too; and when we watch his memories from the end of their relationship, we are with the anger and the hurt that Joel has because of those experiences. Then as he starts to uncover the better memories, we start to see Clementine in a different way, because we've never seen that side of her before. So it is intentional."
Jim Carrey says he could not help but reflect on the romances in his real life as he was portraying Joel; and he thinks the appeal of Kaufman's script is that, in the end, it says the course of true love need not be ... and, perhaps, cannot be ... perfect. "The thing about this movie is you accept the flaws, you accept what was wrong and you move on. You love the person for who they are, flaws and all," Carrey says. "You can't help who you love, either. Part of doing this role is you have to open up old wounds. I also wanted to express a lot of anger and resentment of old hurts past; and what ended up happening ... and I'm really thankful it did ... is that, when it was all put together, it became like a love letter to everybody I have loved."
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind also features Tom Wilkinson, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood. The film takes its title from a line in the 18th century Alexander Pope poem Eloisa to Abelard - "How happy is the blameless vestal's lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind."