Valentine’s Day is approaching and all over the country couples are preparing to celebrate. They are probably preparing special dinner plans, presents, and lots and lots of chocolate. There are also millions of people who are not in relationships and are planning to spend Valentine’s Day alone or with their other single friends. Valentine’s Day can often be tough for people who are single. There are many benefits to single life, but it can often feel difficult seeing Instagram posts of happy couples romanticizing romance.
But what if there was a film that challenged the idea of relationships and memories associated with failed romance? Every optimist knows that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. However, nearly every fresh breakup comes with the same painful thought: what if I could forget the entire relationship so I don’t have to endure this pain? No film answers this question quite like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: a relentless masterpiece that clearly shows why this thought is a horrible idea.
Romance is hard…
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (directed by Michel Gondry and written by Charlie Kaufman) is about Joel (Jim Carrey) dealing with the end of his relationship with his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet). However, he’s the only one dealing with the end of the relationship. Clementine has chosen to undergo a procedure that cuts out her memory of Joel and their entire relationship. When Joel and Clementine randomly encounter each other, Joel learns about Clementine’s procedure and is even more heartbroken because she does not remember him. He decides the pain is too much and chooses to undergo the procedure himself. Unfortunately, he realizes the truth too late when he is recounting his memories with Clementine: it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.
The film brilliantly balances the ups and downs of romance and all the complications that occur in relationships. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind might appear a little too cynical in the first act. The opening scene shows Joel meeting Clementine for the first time and is immediately followed by Joel crying over their break up. The doctors that are performing the procedure dance and party while Joel undergoes the memory wipe. He’s stuck in limbo, realizing his mistake, screaming to end the procedure to no avail.
There is some cynicism in this whole situation, but it is primarily because both Clementine and Joel are cynical characters at the start of the film. They are both insecure (which is why they both undergo the procedure) and push their insecurities onto each other, which creates holes in their relationship. However, during the film their perceptions begin to change. Joel begins to appreciate Clementine in a way he never has prior to the events of his memory wipe, and Clementine understands the pain of her procedure which eventually turns into regret.
…But it is worth every emotion
There are multiple messages in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Personally, I think the most important lesson is how beautiful relationships are at their core. They are not beautiful because they last forever. It’s actually the opposite. The beauty in relationships is that they have a life expectancy, whether it be “‘til death do us part” or an eventual breakup. The lack of permanence is what makes Joel and Clementine’s time together so special. The real tragedy is that they lose their memories of each other and their time together, ultimately losing part of themselves.
When Joel is screaming at his doctors to call off the procedure, it is because he sees the beauty in his connection with Clementine. He understands that their relationship was great because their time together was not bound by eternity. Regardless of one’s relationship status, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an important film to watch on Valentine’s Day; it displays what makes intimacy so special and how true connection is irreplaceable.