Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind is the 2004 romance directed by Michel Gondry (Be Kind Rewind, The Green Hornet) which follows the disorienting and emotional journey of Joel (Jim Carey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) as they erase each other from their memories after an unsuccessful relationship.
I'm gonna be honest with you - I'm a romantic, and usually I do fall for romance movies (with the exception of crap like The Fault In Our Stars and The Notebook). However, Eternal Sunshine is far different from the typical (or counter typical) romance flick. 'Why?', you ask? Let's take a look...
It Doesn't Spoon Feed You [At All]
Unlike other films of the genre which give you as an audience member a basic, watered down plot and unrelenting exposition, there is A LOT you could miss when watching this film for the first or even second time. The film does not flow chronologically, instead showing us Joel and Clem' for the first time after their memories have already been erased (which even that I missed watching the first time) then beginning to backtrack as things continue. Not only that, but there are hundreds of small details in the film which give it a richness and depth unlike most other films out there: for example, Joel still having the dots drawn on the side of his head when he wakes up in the opening shot.
Not only does the film not spoon feed us anything plot wise or with content, but it also refuses to guarantee us any kind of a happy ending, instead providing us with this bittersweet finale of the lovers deciding to begin all over again despite knowing that they were driven to erase each other in the first place due to such a dysfunctional dynamic. When interviewed, Gondry explained how if the film was to go on he believes Joel and Clementine would go on erasing each other every couple of years, but still finding each other. Forever.
The Characters Are Realistic
Rather than being forever loyal, or die hard romantics, Joel and Clementine (and all of the secondary characters for that matter) are definitely NOT perfect. Joel is dull, whiny, and repressed whereas Clementine is brutally honest, impulsive and very temperamental, to say the least. No couple in this film is happy in the way that things are often presented to us through cinema, which we are shown is completely OK because that doesn't exist (unless you have a spotless, empty mind). You have to take the bad to appreciate the good, basically. Not only this, but the characters break the 4th wall between the camera and the audience by being self aware to a great extent by Joel rebelling from Lacuna and reclaiming the events as his own to control (i.e. the super creative memory altering scenes).
It Has a Lot You Can Take Away From It
Eternal Sunshine and eternal wisdom - the film teaches us a lot of stuff about love and relationships. Obviously, it's not possible to erase your ex's existence from your brain, and I wouldn't really advise any of you to go for a night picnic on a frozen lake, but Eternal Sunshine shows a lot of things about fate, love, flaws and pain. As mentioned, it teaches us to take the good with the bad, but also to really embrace all pain and learn from it instead of wanting to forget about it all, because only through that heartbreak (etc.) can we grow, even though it won't bring us any sunshine.
It's From Joel's Point Of View
Most romance films/narratives are told from the woman's point of view, them being the stereotypically more romantic and sentimental gender of the two. Eternal Sunshine centers around Joel and his memories, though; showing us how truly sentimental both genders can be, which is a beautiful thing. Joel actually provides most of the mushy romance for the entire duration of the film, definitely breaking tradition.
A tale of sadness, hope, love and memories that I will never forget.