Indie Spotlight: 'Blessed are the Forgetful' - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Emy Moore delves into the spotless wonder of this eternal indie classic.

Emy Moore
21st October 2019
Image: YouTube
This noughties drama sci-fi is probably caught in the minds of those who know it as a quintessentially indie, yet unconventionally popular, cult classic. From my experience, Eternal Sunshine is one of those films that people either adore or have never even heard of, and to me, that’s part of its charm. The story centers around protagonists Joel and Clementine, who, after a painful breakup, undergo a revolutionary procedure to erase each other from their memories.

As one of the world’s worst kept secrets, Eternal Sunshine reigns as one of the front runners for what I believe it takes to be a typical indie film – consistently beautiful cinematography, unexpected lead talents, a convoluted yet awe-inspiring plot, and a color palette that could even rival Wes Anderson’s (Royal Tenebaums, Grand Budapest Hotel) work for defining what it means to be aesthetically pleasing. It explores themes of loss, identity, destiny and regret, all of which accumulate into almost two hours of heart-wrenching self-retrospection and, if you’re half as sensitive as me, floods of undignified tears.

For me, these are only some of the countless things that secured Eternal Sunshine a permanent home in my heart. The cinematography and visuals created by some of the most ambitious and creative shots I’ve ever seen never fail to impress me, especially in a time when the rise of excessive digital effects could have threatened the authenticity of what director Michel Gondry (Foo Fighters 'Everlong', RHCP 'Otherside') was aiming to achieve.

There was an inordinate about of spontaneity, improvisation, and old-fashioned camera tricks involved in the production which make the experience of the film totally unique, and the pure talent of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet continues to blow me away with every re-watch. Jim Carrey is presumably the last actor to come to mind when looking for someone to adopt the life of introverted, meek-mannered Joel, and Kate Winslet isn’t necessarily the typical choice for feisty, larger than life Clementine, but somehow, they work together perfectly. Their chemistry is tangible, and their performances are deeply moving – for something so different to their usual type-cast roles it’s refreshing to see them embrace it so naturally.

"The pure talent of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet continues to blow me away with every re-watch"

Aside from the production and acting however, the story itself is incredibly compelling. The sci-fi aspect is rather unusual for the indie genre, but it’s subtle enough to fit unquestioningly into the narrative without feeling forced or unrealistic. The premise of the film itself – the idea that it’s possible to erase other people from your mind to cure painful memories – is an extremely thought-provoking and dystopian concept that rings true with certain viewers and can truly resonate with those finding themselves relating to Joel and Clementine’s desire to essentially delete their trauma as opposed to living with and processing it.

Eternal Sunshine forces its viewers, in the best possible way, to question everything – what it means to be human, what it means to be alive, and what it means to be in love. And while these questions, for the most part, remain unanswered by the concluding scene; it certainly provides the opportunity to consider them in a deeper way than you may have before and find some way to answer them for yourself. This niche story does provide some emotional closure, however, in the overarching sentiment that (much like the experience of watching this film); "You can erase someone from your mind, but getting them out of your heart is another story.”

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