Netflix is a treasure trove of countless movies and TV shows you might not have otherwise encountered, and one of Jim Carrey’s best films, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, has just hit the platform.
Back in the ‘90s, Carrey was one of the biggest performers in Hollywood. He first came to prominence with the release of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and despite most reviews being less than kind and some uncomfortably transphobic attempts at humor, it was a moderate success, with similarly histrionic roles in the likes of The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Batman Forever, The Cable Guy and Liar Liar following in quick succession and cementing his fame. Although he began to move away from such performances with reality series satire The Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine was where the breadth of his dramatic talent truly became apparent to many audiences.
The mind-bending film sees the introverted Joel discover that his free-spirited ex-girlfriend Clementine underwent a procedure to erase their two-year relationship from her memory and decides to do the same for himself to spare himself the pain of remembering her. Much of the action takes place within his mind as he experiences their relationship in reverse as it’s removed, beginning from the breakup and deterioration and progressing backwards to when they were happy together, whereupon he decides he’s made a mistake and attempts to escape into other parts of his memory, bringing the idealized mental construct of Clementine with him to save her from erasure.
The title of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind comes from Eloisa to Abelard, an 18th century poem about an illicit yet romantic affair between a nun and her tutor. The line is part of a rumination on the function of memory, suggesting there may be bliss in being unaware of past troubles but also that without pain there can be no joy, while the poem itself periodically postulates that true love will ultimately transcend whatever’s thrown at it, as Joel spends much of the film attempting to prove.