Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ★★★★★

I’ve never been in a romantic relationship yet, which is not to say I’ve never been in love before. Films about love and films about romantic relationships don’t go as necessarily hand-in-hand as they might seem, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is chiefly about the latter. There are particular rhythms to relationships that are perhaps most easily noticed from outside them, and if you can track those rhythms predictably enough, who’s to say you can’t destroy them? That’s the ostensible idea behind Eternal Sunshine, a Jim Carrey comedy whose inane setup hits with a more unexpectedly sharp sincerity than the rest of that ilk. Carrey’s unconventional casting, along with the film’s many other funky mannerisms, is at odds with the clinical meaning of that core setup. Then again, Carrey’s Joel Barish is at odds with that modulated certainty as well.

What’s stuck me time and again over the years about Eternal Sunshine, in spite many friends getting supposedly tired of seeing it, is its unlimited desire to go headfirst into an exciting and promising relationship, in spite the all too likely promise of rejection. It’s something I’ve felt, but, like Joel petrified out of his element in every social situation, have never conjured the courage to act out on. Sometimes I find myself diminishing the validity of that fear, as the momentary or ongoing passion and joy of a relationship should be more than enough reason to take that risk. The way the film visually represents the literal obliteration of a relationship, ripped from memory or experience? That’s a macro representation of what rejection feels like. It’s seeing that possibility erased as if it never was.

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