Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

MPAA Rating: R for language, some drug use and sexual content

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Mature Teens
Sci-Fi Romance Drama
Year of Release:
USA Release:
March 19, 2004
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Relevant Issues
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What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

Is formalized marriage becoming obsolete? Answer

What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

Relationship issues
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.
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Featuring: Jim Carrey
Kate Winslet
Kirsten Dunst
Mark Ruffalo
Tom Wilkinson
Elijah Wood
Director: Michel Gondry—“Be Kind Rewind” (2008)
Producer: Anthony Bregman, Steve Golin
Distributor: Focus

Love: A passionate affection for someone (Webster’s NewWorld Dictionary).

And this is Love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love (2 John verse 6).

Everywhere we turn we see this present world disintegrating into selfishness and sin. As the world sees it, especially in Hollywood it would seem, the view is towards brokenness and pain. Relationships are hallow. Marriages fall apart. In the eyes of many writers (as in Charlie Kaufman’s script) love relationships are traced by bitter disputes and troubles in relating to one another’s basic needs.

Kaufman is not known for the happy ending. Although very original, his previous works (“Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation,” to name two) deal with great confusion about life in general and what ever to do with it? Kaufman’s themes run through degenerate feelings and morbid dysfunctional messages throughout. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” has given me a small ray of hope as the outcome is basically positive, although getting to that point is a grueling yet thought provoking experience for the audience.

Beginning with Joel Barish (a wonderful, sincere, expert Jim Carrey) awaking in his apartment confused and distressed clear through to the ending where Joel awakes in the same exact way except knowing what he must do, we enter a wild world of neurotic characters, domestic discord, and jagged compositions. It is the type of movie one must stay focused on or else something will be missed. It had my attention throughout. Although some scenes were unsettling and hard for me to watch as a Christian, the excellent acting kept me enthralled.

From Joel’s decision to skip work and take a commuter train from Yonkers to Montauk through the time he meets the love of his life, Clementine Kruczynski (played to a free spirited “T” by Kate Winslet), we are made aware he is a painfully shy man wandering through his life in a cloud of dissatisfaction and loneliness. Clementine wakes him out of his dismal fog and introduces him to all he is not. She is prone to changing her attitudes and thoughts as often as her hair color and manages to drag Joel underfoot rather than have him riding along beside her. The live-in relationship crumbles based on the observation they are wildly different personalities. He says “Be careful, what are you doing?” as she expounds “I am not wasting one second of the time I have!”

Because of the tug of war going on between them caused by the obvious gap in personalities, Joel knows his relationship with Clementine is unraveling but doesn’t know how to mend it. He gets a shock to his heart when he finds out the impulsive Clem has had her memories of Joel totally erased from her mind by a procedure invented by a Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (played down to Earth by Tom Wilkinson).

After rushing to see the inventor and listening to the calm intelligence of the good Doctor as he explains the process (“There is good and evil in this life, we help people get over pain by giving them something new. It will be as if nothing has happened—a new life is awaiting you!”), the heartbroken Joel decides to undergo the procedure as well.

With the help of technicians Stan (a nerdy Mark Ruffalo), Patrick (Elijah Wood breaking his hobbit mold being a wormy, sweaty-palmed deceiver) and office secretary May (a sweet, unsure almost gossamer Kirsten Dunst), the memory erasure procedure commences in Joel’s apartment heaped in technological equipment and a disturbing party atmosphere. As Joel lays in a drug induced comma at the mercy of this unethical trio, we are taken along for the journey through his memories of Clem from the most recent painful ones back to the gentle, unselfish memories he realizes endeared her to him in the first place. Joel agonizes over the fact he has made a rash decision and even though in a sleep state, tries desperately to halt the memory eradication process! Joel’s mind works courageously to hide Clementine in the memories of places in his life she never visited.

As overlapping stories unfold in Joel’s memories and overlapping realities progress real-time, the audience is taken on an action packed, surreal, funny and often heart wrenching ride through the rest of the film. Disturbing and at times beautiful, Ellen Kuras’ cinematography along with Valdis Oskarsdottir’s editing is stand-out! They bring us through the process as if we are there in Joel’s mind. His memories merge and evaporate, morph and change through time and space as if we also were living his dreams. We are caught up in the race against time to redeem, capture and protect what is truly dear in all our lives, which is to love and be loved.

The end is a wonderful concept… what if we could go back over, re-think, clean up and make right all the wrongs we have done to someone we love. I must admit, I was greatly moved at the ending and the way our two principal characters re-met and were given just that. The chance to start over and be kind, sincere, honest, and giving to the other’s needs. To find each other again using the heart and not the mind.

My review on a spiritual basis had me reeling. There was so much profanity going on I was worn out trying to keep track of it. There were prolific references to pre-marital sex (not any mention of a committed love-relationship, just sex), smoking “joints” and mostly uninhibited, “if-it-feels-good-do-it” attitudes by the characters of the supporting cast. How fallen our society has become stung at my spirit and made me clearly aware of how our youth today needs Jesus.

There will always be pain and suffering for those who fall into sexual sin and unfaithfulness to their marriage partner. Not once did I see or hear any reference to starting over with God as the head of the relationship or any reference to marriage as a true commitment. It appears the youth today are being steered more and more towards living together as the acceptable norm, and that unfaithfulness in marriage is funny. We as the faithful must be the watchmen over them and teach them the consequences God h as ordained in His Word. All of us are born into sin and without Jesus and His knowledge of true love, the wages of these sins come at a terrible cost.

READ: What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer / What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer / Is formalized marriage becoming obsolete? Answer

All told the profanity level was high. Counting: f-word (2), Lord’s name in vain (1), b**ch (1), a** (1), and sh** (1) all before the opening credits! Clementine’s character used the f-word constantly. I stopped counting at 15 times. The other characters sprinkled the dialogue with more throughout:G**d**** (3), Lord’s name in vain (4), h*ll (1), sh** (6), and 2 more h*ll before I got writer’s cramp.

The R rating was very appropriate for strong sexual references (although surprisingly you were made aware some of the characters were nude, but nothing was ever shown on camera), drug use, profanities and adult themes in reference to masturbation and twice referring to Clementine’s “crotch.” This movie is for no one under the age of 18 because of these references and also for the extremely unChristian views on pre marital or any kind of sex without the benefit of marriage.

In one of Joel’s childhood memories he is forced to hammer a baby bird (already dead and probably fallen out of the nest) to a pulp by some neighborhood kids and his remorse is strongly felt. So, no children allowed to this film is my strict recommendation!

If anyone has heard of Alexander Pope, the great English poet, his poem “Eloisa to Abelard” is the subject from which the title to this film springs. Although touted as a Christian who had compassion and eloquence, Pope, in my view, used sexual frustration as his themes and shown an over-reaction to the sexual repression of his day. Eloisa wanted to free herself from the great love of her life, but in reality was only paying the price for having had an affair with a much older man and the painful consequence of having his child! How against Christian example is that? Overall, we could substitute the name Eloisa and put in Clementine, the pain because of sin is still the same.

My bottom line: We cannot erase bad memories. We can never rely on our own inner strengths, whatever we may conjure them up to be. We make ourselves alien to real, true Godly love when we allow sin to run ramped in our lives. I found much if not all of the bitter sweet sadness in this film the product of uncontrolled lives without benefit of the guidance and transforming peace of God and His Word. God knows that those who walk without him have broken a relationship much more important than human love, but running away from Him most times runs us right into Him. Be strong in The Lord. Allow Him to be your strength in all facets of your life. There are no “cures” or medical, technological processes in all of humankind to heal our broken hearts or bring us love. Only our Father in Heaven can do that.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phillippians 4:6-7).

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” was a well done, imaginative look at romantic emotions. Although not Godly in premiss, it will make us all think about how we can treat the ones we love with concern, respect and show them love at every turn right now, for we will never get another chance as Joel and Clementine did. As Our Lord would do… let us walk in tender devotion as was His passion, for there lies not eternal sunshine but eternal love.

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—With objectionable material warranting the R rating, I would strongly suggest the viewership stays above age 17. This movie had very funny moments, moving performances, and a very postmodern flavor of cinematography (which is generally not liked by the pop-culture audiences). There is a message to be taken from this film, but as a viewer, my understanding of this message will be different from others’ understandings because of life context. I believe this film has plenty to offer those with hurting hearts, as well as something to offer those who enjoy great performances.
My Ratings: [Average/4½]
—Doug Stuart, age 23
Positive—When I go to the movies, I go for one of two reasons: a great “ride” or to “walk in someone else’s shoes.” This movie was both. The sets, locations, art direction, even hair were as important to the success and beauty of this movie as were Jim Carey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood,… etc. The characters are so realistically portrayed that I left the theater saying “doesn’t she remind you of …?” I loved this movie. It reminded me of how lovely, and true, and holy and beautiful the love of God is! The bottom line: life is hard, sometimes even ugly. Life without God is worse. The only beauty we can know is love. People who do not know God, and therefore do not know that God IS love, only have the love that they can see and touch and hear. This movie is a touching, sad, funny and in your face example of that very real fact. Thank you Charlie Kaufman for telling the truth.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/4½]
—Anne L., age 37
Positive—Anyone who has ever truly been in love should be touched by this film. The film is far too “artsy” and post-modern for the mainstream, but those who can appreciate this style of film will be blown away by its power. Not for pre-teens or younger, though.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Mike Kogr, age 43
Positive—…I commend any Hollywood film that takes a realistic look at love between people in our age. Yes, it features many unrighteous aspects of a loving relationship outside of God’s care, but it realistically looks at hardships. Any married couple can agree that sometimes people are not easy. This movie reminds us that true love and intimacy is taking the fallenness of our loved one and forgiving them as Christ forgives us. a love relationship only works when people can move past this and work to create better people… I would not suggest this movie for younger viewers…
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Joel Schramm, age 21
Positive—If only all Hollywood-produced films were this thought-provoking and entertaining. While not a “Christian” movie, Eternal Sunshine will take you on a wonderful journey into the complexities and fragility of the mind, human nature and relationships. It’s a visually beautiful and crafty film with perhaps Carey and Winslet’s most rewarding performances. The ample vulgarity and adult themes give the movie a well-earned R rating, but the stunning vistas, creative story-telling and profound questions make Eternal Sunshine this year’s first must see film.
My Ratings: [Average/4½]
—J. Porter, age 32
Positive—The moment I figured the movie out, I began to cry. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is both Charlie Kaufman’s best writing and Jim Carrey’s best acting to date. It is a wonderfully touching, brilliant film about the nature of relationships and love. Oh, and it goes completely inside a man’s head, into his memories. “Being John Malkovich” was admittedly not the feel good movie of the year. However, with “Adaptation” and now “Eternal Sunshine” Kaufman seems to be leaning more toward HOPE than despair.

One of its lessons is that while every relationship may not last, that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any good in it. As Christians, we should also remember this. God can use a past relationship to teach us, to grow us, to prepare us. If we close off every past relationship, we close out a lot of good things that God does not at all wish for us to discount.

Isn’t it funny that whenever Charlie Kaufman writes a movie, we almost forget to talk about the director? Michel Gondry does a fabulous job directing. There are endless amounts of detail in all of the flashbacks, including a host of very well done and subtle special effects. This is shaping up to be a phenomenal movie year. First with “The Passion of the Christ” which is so unique it is in a league all its own, and now “Eternal Sunshine.” Go see this movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Jason Eaken, age 20
Positive—…Memory will never be captured like this because there is a spiritual nature to remembering the past that will ever be mastered my man. Remember Lazarus and the rich man? After death the rich man could remember he’s life. Thus even though I’ve studied science in secular institutions I believe, based on this, that memory is supra organic in nature. The film is marginally worth your time and money.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3]
—Bob C., age 40
Positive—One of the best films of the year. The only thing that I found objectionable was the language, but it was in a realistic setting, so I didn’t complain too much. I think this is one that the 15 and up crowd could see and enjoy, especially dating couples. I loved it, and I highly recommend it!
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Adam, age 21
Positive—This is at heart a very uplifting movie that uses a brilliant plot and unconventional cinematic methods to highlight the idea that God can and will bring things together despite any obstacles. Joel and Clementine, though both have done everything they could to forget one another are inexplicably drawn back to one another, their fates seemingly decided, planned carefully by a force greater than any evil or sadness that this imperfect world could muster. This film is excellently acted and is very genuine.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Doug Coleman, age 21
Positive—I found this film extremely thought-provoking. Aside from the fact that the cinematography was superb and left my jaw open, the futility of our human efforts (and their human mouths and standards) was apparent in the characters’ need to go back and fix mistakes. At the end, I could only believe, that even though the characters were going to make a valiant effort, they would still make mistakes in their relationship—oh, how we need Jesus. We can’t heal and stop hurting each other without Him. If only the film offered that eternal hope as part of the film.
My Ratings: [Average/4½]
—Amy, age 32
Neutral—I was not as enthralled by this movie as the other commentators. I thought it was unusual in its structure, and depicted well the complexities of love relationships. But everything stayed shallow. No depth, no commitment, and certainly nothing remotely Christian. A sad worldview, rather bleak even. The movie begins and ends at the same point—Joel has gone through the erasure procedure and feels drawn to Montauk where he runs into Clementine and neither remembers having met the other before. The body of the movie explains in changing time frames the original meeting of Joel and Clem at a beach party and then their disintegrating relationship. It ends with the beginning scene. This structure is not clear in the review above. A film only for die-hard movie go-ers like me.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4½]
Halyna Barannik, age 58
Neutral—I watched this movie based on the recommendation of several non-christian friends. I sensed that this would be the kind of movie that could open up a dialogue about spiritual things with them. I was half right. The most beautiful analogy this movie provides, in talking with non-christians about spiritual truths, comes at the very end. The movie reminds us that there is more to a relationship than just good feelings. In the end it is a commitment to a person, who we know won’t be perfect, that makes a marriage work. The two lead characters decide to CHOOSE love rather than just feel it.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Chris D, age 40
Comments from young people
Positive—I never thought I would say that Jim Carrey deserved an Oscar. Well, here I am, saying it now. Eternal Sunshine succeeds in all areas of film. The engaging plot was executed in such a way that it was something so original that it kept you in its bind. I was reminded of EOE (End of Evangelion) throughout the entire course of the movie. The actors are at the top of their game, which really added to the final product. It was a real treat seeing Jim work the way he did on screen. There is a handful of language, but if you’re not offended by it, then you should really go out and pick this one up.
My Ratings: [Average/4½]
—Dylan, age 13
Negative—I was interested in this film by the plot, but what finalized my decision to watch it was the fact that Jim Carrey was a main character, and it was made by the same film company as was 21 Grams. I thought the film had some positive elements about the love between a man and woman; unfortunately the couple was unmarried, but the story line was original and the acting superb. What disappointed me the most from this movie was not the foul language, which was plentiful, nor was it the sexual references. What this movie left me with was a feeling of emptiness. After viewing the film and watching the story unfold, I couldn’t help but pity the two characters. Each loved the other, but it could not be compared with the love found in Christ. I felt saddened more than uplifted by this movie’s ending, and although it has a terrific story, I could not recommend it to another Christian.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/5]
—N. Blount, age 16
Neutral—Overall, this movie was put together well. The use of the f-word in Kate Winslet’s character “Clementine” was highly offensive. The use of marijuana followed by sexual acts was also offensive. I would certainly say that an adult should watch this movie before having anyone under the age 18 watching it. It has very mature context in it which some is offensive, but the movie very interesting.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3½]
—Abbey S., age 16