I am not one to do movie reviews. I rarely write on a movie I see, and when I do, it’s usually favorably. But I feel compelled to write about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, primarily because I disliked this movie so much.
I found my reaction to be somewhat disconcerting, too, because it seems to be such a universally beloved movie. I don’t think I’ve read one unfavorable review of this movie, either by webloggers, in comments at Amazon and other online sites, or by professional critics. However, I disliked the characters from the first five minutes, and my loathing for them only increased as the movie progressed.
This movie is “urban angst” taken to an almost pure artistic form. It’s like walking through a showing at an art gallery consisting primarily of photos taken of reflections from car door handles.
The premise behind the movie is that the lead characters are so shattered by their breakup that they have all memories of each other wiped out (or start to have them wiped out), so they won’t have to suffer the pain of loss. Yet the lead character, played by Jim Carrey, finds that he can’t let go of his former love (played by Kate Winslet), and tries to hide memories of her here and there, to protect them. The concept is extremly novel and the execution intelligent and creative. But it failed with me.
I’ve found through personal and difficult experience that the loss of love and the bitter and hollow disappointment that can come from such, is a rich, and even beautiful experience, albeit best when viewed from a distance. It is just this loss of love, or love unmet that forms the inspiration for much of our art. I have a hard time understanding how a person would want to eliminate even one second of this experience, no matter how painful.
Of course, Carrey’s character finds this out as the erasure is taking place, and this begins the real journey featured in the movie. But by then, the necessary connection I felt you needed to have with his character before this journey takes place just wasn’t there, at least not for me. He irritated me. His girlfriend irritated me. Even the lady in the waiting room crying into her hankie irritated me.
The filming was clever and ingenious, but I sometimes think that this movie was a case of a director wanting to try different techniques, and then finding a story that would connect the dots, so to speak. Maybe if I had accepted it as such when I watched it, I would have at least appreciated the dots, if not the journey between them.