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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (15)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with director Michel Gondry and writer Charlie Kaufman; 'A Look Inside Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' feature; A Conversation With Jim Carrey and Michel Gondry; Lacuna Inc. advertisement.

SCREENWRITER, Charlie Kaufman, certainly has an eye for the obscure, if his work on Being John Malkovich and Adaptation is anything to go by. Hence, a love story told Kaufman-style, is always going to be interesting, particularly given his ability to challenge conformity.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, needless to say, is a romantic story with a twist, a dark but ultimately tender tale of love lost and found, told with all of the quirky qualities that have made the writer’s previous screenplays so riveting.

Jim Carrey plays Joel, an everyday city worker who throws caution to the wind, one day, and hops on a train bound for Long Island Beach. What compels him to do so is unclear, at first, but, once there, he meets the impetuous Clementine (Kate Winslet), and the two immediately bond.

Clementine is a captivating free-spirit, whose hair colour changes as often as her mood, yet the two quickly fall in love, and the ensuing relationship opens Joel’s eyes to a world of risk-taking that he never knew existed.

But then things go pair-shaped. Joel receives notice that Clementine has erased all memory of him, prompting him to do the same, out of spite. Yet his memory blitz triggers some soul searching, mid-procedure, forcing Joel to do everything in his power to cling on to the happier times that were shared between them.

And while Joel and Clementine ‘hide out’ in the different memory stores of the former’s mind, it is left to the erasing company to try to find them, while sorting out their own problems in the process.

The company in question is headed by Tom Wilkinson’s seemingly happily-married doctor, who, it transpires, possesses some harmful secrets of his own, while those providing technical support - including Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Kirsten Dunst - are an equally offbeat bunch.

Ruffalo pines after Dunst’s jovial secretary, who has her eyes on someone else, while Wood conspires to take Joel’s experiences and pass them off as his own, in order to win Clementine for himself.

If the ensuing tale sounds convoluted, that’s because it is, and there are times when you’re own mind will probably hurt from trying to keep up with it.

But Kaufman’s skill lies in his ability to keep things interesting, providing viewers with plenty of food for thought as they attempt to unravel the film’s mysteries, while also playing to the strengths of his quality ensemble, rather than opting for too much technical emphasis on the memory erasing procedure.

While bigger budget movies may have taken a more showy route into Joel’s brain, Kaufman and director, Michael Gondry, opt for a more emotional journey, arming his technicians only with laptops, and allowing the strength of the performances, rather than the technology, to shine through.

As a result, Carrey is more muted than usual, only really tapping into his wilder persona during some of the more outlandish escape attempts, and furthering his reputation as a serious character actor in the process. Some of the plot contrivances evoke memories of his character in The Truman Show, but the actor avoids the temptation to merely present a retread, turning in arguably his finest portrayal to date.

Winslet, too, rises to the strength of her material, flitting nicely between loveable and downright cold, while the support (and most notably Ruffalo) help to ensure that this works as a whole, thereby adding to the poignancy of the final moments.

As an exploration of the timeless themes of love, loss and human emotion, this refuses to take the easy options, managing to appeal to the intellect, while pulling at the heart-strings, without ever feeling manipulative. Needless to say, it is an unforgettable experience.

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