Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind ver3.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michel Gondry
Produced by Steve Golin
Anthony Bregman
Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman
Story by Charlie Kaufman
Michel Gondry
Pierre Bismuth
Starring Jim Carrey
Kate Winslet
Kirsten Dunst
Mark Ruffalo
Elijah Wood
Tom Wilkinson
Music by Jon Brion
Cinematography Ellen Kuras
Edited by Valdís Óskarsdóttir
Distributed by Focus Features
Release dates
  • March 19, 2004 (2004-03-19)
Running time
108 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million[1]
Box office $72.3 million[1]

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 American romantic science-fiction comedy-drama film about an estranged couple who have erased each other from their memories, written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry. The film uses elements of science fiction, psychological thriller, and a nonlinear narrative to explore the nature of memory and romantic love.[2] It opened in North America on March 19, 2004, and grossed over $70 million worldwide.[1]

Kaufman and Gondry wrote the story with Pierre Bismuth. The ensemble cast includes Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Tom Wilkinson.

The film won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and has a cult following. Winslet also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

The title of the film is a quotation from Eloisa to Abelard by Alexander Pope.


The shy, soft-spoken Joel Barish and the unrestrained free-spirit Clementine Kruczynski begin a relationship on a Long Island Rail Road train from Montauk, New York to Rockville Centre. They are almost immediately drawn to each other despite their different personalities.

Although they do not realize it at the time, Joel and Clementine are, in fact, former lovers, now separated after having spent two years together. After a fight, Clementine hires the New York City firm Lacuna, Inc. to erase all of her memories of their relationship. Upon discovering this, Joel is devastated and decides to undergo the procedure himself, a process that takes place while he sleeps.

Much of the film takes place in Joel's mind. As his memories are erased, he tries to evade the erasing effects of the procedure by hiding Clementine in remote parts of his unconscious. Joel finds himself revisiting them in reverse. Upon seeing happier times of love with Clementine from earlier in their relationship, he struggles to preserve at least some memory of her and his love for her. Despite his efforts, the memories are slowly erased, with the last memory of Clementine telling him, "Meet me in Montauk."

In separate but related story arcs occurring during Joel's memory erasure, the employees of Lacuna are revealed to be more than peripheral characters. Patrick, one of the Lacuna technicians performing the erasure, is dating Clementine while viewing Joel's memories, and copying aspects of their relationship in order to seduce her. Mary, the Lacuna receptionist, is dating the other memory-erasing technician, Stan. As it turns out, Mary had an affair with Dr. Howard Mierzwiak, the married doctor who heads the company—a relationship which she agreed to have erased from her memory when it was discovered by his wife. Once Mary learns this, she quits her job, confronts Stan about his knowledge of her relationship with Howard (which he denies knowing about), steals the company's records, and sends them out to all the company's clients.

Joel and Clementine come upon their Lacuna records shortly after re-encountering each other on the train. They react with shock and bewilderment, given that they have no clear memory of having known each other, let alone having had a relationship and having had their memories erased. Joel beckons Clementine to start over; Clementine initially resists, pointing out it could go the same way. Joel accepts this, and they decide to attempt a relationship anyway, starting their life together anew.



Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 93% "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 233 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Propelled by Charlie Kaufman's smart, imaginative script and Michel Gondry's equally daring directorial touch, Eternal Sunshine is a twisty yet heartfelt look at relationships and heartache."[3] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 89 out of 100, based on 41 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim."[4]

Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars out of four, commenting, "Despite jumping through the deliberately disorienting hoops of its story, Eternal Sunshine has an emotional center, and that's what makes it work."[5] Ebert later included the film in his "Great Movies" series.[6] Similarly, A. O. Scott of The New York Times praised the film for being "cerebral, formally and conceptually complicated, dense with literary allusions and as unabashedly romantic as any movie you’ll ever see."[7]

Time Out summed up their review by saying, "the formidable Gondry/Kaufman/Carrey axis works marvel after marvel in expressing the bewildering beauty and existential horror of being trapped inside one's own addled mind, and in allegorising the self-preserving amnesia of a broken but hopeful heart."[8]

In 2006, in issue 201 of Empire, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was voted #83 in their 201 Greatest Movies of All Time poll as voted for by readers. That same year, Winslet's performance as Clementine was included in Premiere magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time at #81. Claudia Puig, reviewer in USA Today said about her performance that "Winslet is wonderful as a free spirit whose hair color changes along with her moods. She hasn't had such a meaty role in a while, and she plays it just right."[9]

Carol Vernallis points out that Gondry's experience in directing music videos contributed to the film's mise-en-scène and sound design. Vernallis describes some threads of the visual, aural and musical motifs throughout the film, and how some motifs can work in counterpoint.[10]

In November 2009, Time Out New York ranked the film as the third-best of the decade:

In the past, both director Michel Gondry's kindergarten arts-and-crafts aesthetic and Charlie Kaufman's Möbius-striptease scripts have come off as insufferably twee and gimmicky. So why does this existential meta-rom-com always leave us teary-eyed and genuinely moved?...[T]he duo finally finds the right combination of high-concept and humanity here, taking the what-if idea of a company that lobotomizes the lovelorn into territory that's funny, painful, poetic and unsettlingly weird.[11]

Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Only the bizarre and byzantine brain of Charlie Kaufman could turn this 2004 story about erasing all memories of love into one of the most romantic movies of the decade."[12] Slant Magazine placed the film at number 87 on their list of the best films of the 2000s.[13] Paste Magazine named it one of the 50 Best Movies of the Decade (2000-2009), ranking it at number 5.[14]

At the end of 2009, The Onion's A.V. Club rated Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as the number one film of the 2000s, beating out Christopher Nolan's Memento and the Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men. The article states, "It's the rare film that shows us who we are now and who we're likely, for better or worse, forever to be."[15]

It has been calculated to be the 11th most critically acclaimed film of the first decade of the 21th century by virtue of its number of appearances on prominent 'films of the decade' lists.[16]

In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked the film at #24 on its list of "101 Greatest Screenplays".[17]


Kaufman, Gondry, and Bismuth won the 2004 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

AFI recognition[edit]

The film was nominated for placement on two American Film Institute lists.

Music and soundtrack[edit]

The soundtrack album for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was released by Hollywood Records on March 16, 2004.

The score was composed by Los Angeles musician Jon Brion. Other songs are from artists such as The Polyphonic Spree, The Willowz, and Don Nelson. Beck, in a collaboration with Brion, provides a cover version of The Korgis' "Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime".

Home video[edit]

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was released on DVD in the U.S. in separate anamorphic widescreen and full screen editions on September 28, 2004. Both editions carry English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, English DTS 5.1 Surround and French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround tracks. Bonus features included on this disc are:[20]

  • Feature commentary with director Michel Gondry and writer Charlie Kaufman
  • Deleted scenes
  • A Look Inside Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • A Conversation with Jim Carrey and Michel Gondry
  • The Polyphonic Spree "Light & Day" music video
  • Lacuna, Inc. commercial

A special two-disc widescreen Collector's Edition DVD was released in the U.S. on January 4, 2005. Features on Disc 1 are identical to the single-disc edition. Bonus features on the two-disc edition include:[21]

  • Collectible packaging and booklet with photos
  • A Conversation with Kate Winslet and Michel Gondry
  • Inside the Mind of Michel Gondry
  • Additional deleted / extended scenes
  • Anatomy of a Scene: Saratoga Avenue
  • "The Misadventures of Superdog" by Joel Bar(r)ish (22-second Easter egg accessible just below other features)

A HD DVD edition was released in the U.S. on April 24, 2007, with a 1080p/VC-1 video transfer, and both English and French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround tracks. This edition includes all the bonus features from the two-disc Collector's Edition, sans the collectible packaging and booklet.[22]

A Blu-ray edition was released in the U.S. on January 25, 2011, with a 1080p H.264/MPEG-4 AVC video transfer, and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround and French DTS 5.1 Surround tracks. This edition also includes all the bonus features from the two-disc Collector's Edition, sans the collectible packaging and booklet.[23]


  1. ^ a b c "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". Box Office Mojo. 
  2. ^ "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  3. ^ Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind at Rotten Tomatoes
  4. ^ Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind at Metacritic
  5. ^ Reviews :: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind from Roger Ebert's website
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger, 2010-01-02. Great Movies review of Eternal Sunsine of the Spotless Mind.
  7. ^ Murphy, Mekado (2011-02-15). "Critics' Picks Video: 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' -". Retrieved 2013-03-27. 
  8. ^ Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind movie review – Film – Time Out London
  9. ^ " - Soak up 'Eternal Sunshine,' and you'll feel warm all over". 
  10. ^ Vernallis, Carol. "Music video, songs, sound: experience, technique and emotion in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". Screen. 49.3. (2008) pp.277–97.
  11. ^ "The TONY top 50 movies of the decade" (739). Time Out New York. November 26 – December 2, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  12. ^ Geier, Thom; Jensen, Jeff; Jordan, Tina; Lyons, Margaret; Markovitz, Adam; Nashawaty, Chris; Pastorek, Whitney; Rice, Lynette; Rottenberg, Josh; Schwartz, Missy; Slezak, Michael; Snierson, Dan; Stack, Tim; Stroup, Kate; Tucker, Ken; Vary, Adam B.; Vozick-Levinson, Simon; Ward, Kate (December 11, 2009), "THE 100 Greatest MOVIES, TV SHOWS, ALBUMS, BOOKS, CHARACTERS, SCENES, EPISODES, SONGS, DRESSES, MUSIC VIDEOS, AND TRENDS THAT ENTERTAINED US OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS". Entertainment Weekly. (1079/1080):74-84
  13. ^ "Best of the Aughts: Film". Slant Magazine. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
  14. ^ "The 50 Best Movies of the Decade (2000-2009)". Paste Magazine. November 3, 2009. Retrieved December 14, 2011. 
  15. ^ Murray, Noel (2009-12-03). "The best films of the '00s | Film | Best of". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2013-03-27. 
  16. ^ TSPDT - 21st Century (Films 50-1). Retrieved on 2014-08-10.
  17. ^ Savage, Sophia (February 27, 2013). "WGA Lists Greatest Screenplays, From 'Casablanca' and 'Godfather' to 'Memento' and 'Notorious'". Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  18. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
  19. ^ " Error" (PDF). 
  20. ^ "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  21. ^ "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  22. ^ "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  23. ^ "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". Retrieved 2011-02-24. 

External links[edit]