I'm thrilled to be returning to The Film Experience's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," and always excited to revisit Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of my all-time favorite films. It's a true classic for so many reasons: The amazing screenplay with a great central conceit by Charlie Kaufmann; the believable and affecting relationship; the career-best performances by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet; the pitch-perfect supporting performances that sell us on the reality of Lacuna, Inc.; and the sense of melancholy and emotion that is woven so effortlessly throughout the film.
Perhaps what I love most about the screenplay is the way it follows Lacuna, Inc's process of going through old memories. As Lacuna goes deeper, so does the film. We see deeper and darker memories and emotions as the film goes along, until there are moments that become almost overwhelming.
One of the most affecting sequences of the movie, where I suspect I'm not the only viewer to get choked up, is when Joel and Clementine attempt to escape the erasing by traveling back to Joel's childhood, to hide out in memories that existed before he met Clementine. We move through some teen embarrassment into a sequence where a very young Joel is forced into a moment of cruelty by neighborhood bullies. Only this time Clementine is there with him, and she carries him away from this painful memory until they are alone together in front of his home. It's a brief moment of happiness and redemption for the two, but it doesn't end there.
The shot I've chosen is right after this, when Clementine disappears from his memory, Joel's childhood home becomes decrepit, and he rides off on his bike. I love this shot because out of context you're not sure if its young Joel or older Joel. It's Jim Carrey, but he carries himself so well in his childlike way, on his boyhood bike, setting out to escape the painful memories. I'm deeply moved by the desolation of the shot, with Joe's childhood red cape being the only bright spot of color. In the end its a great shot in a truly great movie because it both connects to the central relationship of the movie and shows all the baggage and memories we carry with us throughout life and into every relationship.