Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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. The film was written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry. 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.

Featuring elements of psychological thriller and a nonlinear narrative to explore the nature of memory and romantic love,[2] Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind opened in North America to wide acclaim on March 19, 2004, and grossed over $70 million worldwide.[1] It won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and Winslet received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

The film developed a cult following in the years after its release, and is now regarded by many critics as one of the greatest films of the 21st century.[3]

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


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, though both had felt the need to travel to Montauk that day. 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 had hired the New York City firm Lacuna, Inc. to erase all of her memories of their relationship. Upon discovering this from his friends Rob and Carrie, Joel was devastated and decided to undergo the procedure himself, a process that takes place while he sleeps.

Much of the film subsequently takes place in Joel's mind during this memory erasure procedure. 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 to either hide the memories or wake up and stop the process, the memories are slowly erased. He comes to the last remaining memory of Clementine, the day he had first met her at a beach house in Montauk. As this memory disintegrates around them, she tells him, "Meet me in Montauk."

Separate, but related, story arcs, which revolve around the employees of Lacuna, are revealed during Joel's memory erasure. Patrick, one of the Lacuna technicians performing the erasure, uses Joel's memories and mannerisms to seduce Clementine. Mary, the Lacuna receptionist, is dating the other memory-erasing technician, Stan. During Joel's memory wipe, Mary discovers she had previously had an affair with Dr. Howard Mierzwiak, the married doctor who heads the company, and had agreed to have this erased from her memory when Dr. Mierzwiak's wife found out. On learning this, she asks Stan whether he knew about this, to which he claims that he didn't. Mary then quits her job and steals the company's records, and mails the two former clients their records from Lacuna.

The film returns to the present, after Joel and Clementine have met aboard the train. They both come upon their Lacuna records later that day, and react with shock and bewilderment, because 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

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 93% "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 234 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."[4] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 89 out of 100, based on 41 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim."[5]

Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a perfect four stars, referring to Kaufman as "the most gifted screenwriter of the 2000s" and including it on his "Great Movies" list. [6] 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]

In a 2016 BBC poll, 177 critics voted it the sixth greatest film since 2000.[3] Aggregation site They Shoot Pictures, Don't They has also found it to be the 5th most acclaimed film of the same time period.[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

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

Music and soundtrack

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

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]

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]

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, except for the collectible packaging and booklet.[23]

Television series

In October 2016, Anonymous Content announced they will be working with Universal Cable Productions to produce a television series based on the film. The project is still in planning stages.[24]


  1. 1 2 3 "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". Box Office Mojo.
  2. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
  3. 1 2 "The 21st Century's 100 greatest films". BBC. August 23, 2016. Retrieved September 24, 2016.
  4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind at Rotten Tomatoes
  5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind at Metacritic
  6. Ebert, Roger (January 2, 2010) [2004-03-19]. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". (review; 2010 review: ).
  7. Murphy, Mekado (February 15, 2011). "Critics' Picks Video: 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
  8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind movie review – Film – Time Out London
  9. Puig, Claudia (March 18, 2004). "Soak up 'Eternal Sunshine,' and you'll feel warm all over". USA Today.
  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 (December 3, 2009). "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.
  24. Sandberg, Byran Elise; Kit, Borys (October 7, 2016). "'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' TV Series in the Works (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 7, 2016.

External links

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