Joel and Clementine on the train.Mary (Dunst) and Dr. Mierzwiak (Wilkinson) in the Lacuna offices.

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 romance film from Focus Features that uses a science fiction element to explore the nature of memory and love. The film has developed a cult following and was one of the most critically-acclaimed films of 2004. more...

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The screenplay is by Charlie Kaufman, who worked on the story with the film's director, Michel Gondry, and with Pierre Bismuth, a French performance artist. The idea started with Bismuth, who, according to Kaufman, mailed a note to several friends (including Gondry) explaining that he'd had them erased from his memory, in order to see what their reactions would be.

The film stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet and features Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, and Tom Wilkinson. Though Winslet is British, most viewers regarded her American accent as nearly flawless.

It opened in North America on March 19, 2004. The film has consistent high rankings in the IMDBs Top 250.

The movie's title is taken from a few lines from the much longer poem Eloisa to Abelard by Alexander Pope:

How happy is the blameless Vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot;
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd.

Plot summary

Joel Barish (Carrey) and Clementine Kruczynski (Winslet) meet for what they think is the first time on a Long Island Rail Road train from Montauk to Rockville Centre. They are unaccountably drawn to each other despite radically different personalities.

As it turns out, they were once lovers, but after two years their relationship was in a decline. After a nasty fight, Clementine stormed out of Joel's apartment and his life and impulsively hired a New York firm called Lacuna, Inc., to erase all memories of him. Joel was disconsolate upon finding out what she had done and decided to undergo the procedure himself. However, while unconscious and having his memories of her erased, he rebelled, realizing he wanted to hang on to his memories of her after all. Much of the film takes place in Joel's mind as he tries to figure out how to preserve some memory of his love for Clementine. We watch their love and courtship go in reverse, as the memories are slowly erased while they both try their best to resist the procedure and hide.

Toward the end of the film it becomes clear that the meeting on the train had actually taken place after the two had had their memories erased.

In separate but related story arcs, the employees of Lacuna are revealed to be more than just employees, in scenes which further demonstrate the harm caused by the memory-altering procedure. Mary (Dunst's character) turns out to have had a relationship with the married doctor who heads the company (played by Wilkinson), a relationship erased from her memory. Once she learns of this, she steals the company's records and sends them to all of its clients. Patrick (Wood's character), lonely and without social skills, became fixated on Clementine and used the personal mementos that she gave to Lacuna to faciliate her "erasure" in order to seduce her. These romantic entanglements turn out to have a critical effect on the main storyline of Joel and Clementine's relationship.


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