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eternal sunshine
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Director Michel Gondry plays with your head.

Until now, Michel Gondry has been the name to drop among music video aficionados and ad men. His pop promo work for devotees like Björk and Foo Fighters seethes with creative high jinks. The singers masquerade through dream worlds magicked from an old-fashioned inventor’s imagination that harks back to silent-era cinema, while Around The World for Daft Punk or The White Stripes’ Fell In Love With A Girl are feats of precise logic.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is Gondry’s second feature film from a script by Being John Malkovich scribe, Charlie Kaufman. The first, Human Nature, was an overwrought freak show involving hirsute women, feral children and a scientist teaching mice table manners. Funnily enough, it came up short on any point of human connection. But with Eternal Sunshine, emotions are at the forefront of the action rather than smarty-pants gimmickry.

eternal sunshine

Plotwise, this is a typical Kaufman puzzle book. Clementine (Kate Winslet) has memories of her relationship with ex-boyfriend Joel (Jim Carrey) erased, and Joel decides to get his own back by doing the same. While he’s undergoing the process, crashing through the most recent and painful memories of their break-up then back through the honeymoon period, he realises that his experience of Clementine is an essential part of him. He won’t give it up and tries to hide her in his most buried memories of childhood shame.

As neurotic waif Joel, Jim Carrey taps a big heart no one could have guessed at from his previous screen incarnations. Kate Winslet embodies the loud and equally flaky Clementine, with some of Carrey’s usual manic energy, adding layers that make her headcase character likeable and not annoying.

The biggest surprise, though, is that Kaufman’s gags and gambits take second place to relationship ponderings, rendered with such stabbing honesty that it makes you want to bawl. Could you take someone back when everything had turned to shit, in the certain knowledge that things would go the same again, and still be able to love them?

eternal sunshine

Without playing to rom-com illusions, Eternal Sunshine is one of the most romantic films you’re ever likely to see. Gondry has made good on the weighty expectations surrounding his feature film forays, while Kaufman takes his writing into a new league – one with soul.

Skye Sherwin 30 April 04
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, on national release 30 April 04.
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