Vibrant, warm and deliriously inventive, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is romantic comedy snogging science fiction in another genuine original from Adaptation. scribe Charlie Kaufman. Playing smartly against type, Jim Carrey gives perhaps his best performance as the timid Joel, who discovers his sparky ex-girlfriend Clementine (the luminescent Kate Winslet) has undergone a medical procedure to erase him from her memory. Miffed, he decides to do the same, but changes his mind while watching his memories erased, and must race though his own brain trying to stop the process. Got that?
Yes, most of Eternal Sunshine takes place inside Joel's noggin, as his relationship is replayed from messy breakup to sunshine start - while in the 'real' world the brain-frying medical team (Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood's tech-heads, Kirsten Dunst's receptionist and Tom Wilkinson's dubious doctor) scratch their heads wondering why the infallible mind-wipe isn't quite working. Could it be - we shall see - that the leads are destined to be together?
"THE IDEAS ARE INFUSED WITH SOUL"
Phew. This is quite a film to summarise. And yes, it's a little confusing. But once you plunge into Kaufman's time-splicing, dimension-shifting world, don't try to make it make sense - just feel it. For, while screenwriting clever-dickery can be emotionally alienating, here the ideas are infused with soul. The characters are tangy, tangible creations - funny, sad, sometimes unpleasant. They feel real.
Credit for this also goes to the leads. Winslet, pulling off an immaculate American accent, is the heart of the picture, zinging with the zest for life of the adorable and infuriating Clem. Carrey powers down his comic persona for a muted, mournful turn (although he does have a terrifically funny sequence when regressing to childhood).
Director Michel Gondry, a music video veteran, uses an array of flashy techniques to tell the story, without ever letting style overcome substance. Underneath the visual verve is a clear-eyed look at the painful realities of relationships, but beyond the depression and mordant cynicism is a message: love will find a way.