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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Ignorance Is Bliss

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) on IMDb

Plot Overview

How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd. – Alexander Pope

“Spotless Mind” covers a three day period from two days before Valentine's Day until the day after. It opens in medias res on Feb. 14, with Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) rising to a snow­scape outside his window, kicking off his covers—he sleeps alone—, and writing in his journal (“woke up this morning in a funk.”) He notes some “pages ripped out,” two whole years worth, and “I don't remember doing it.” He calls in sick to work, and on a lark hops a train to Montauk, a tourist beach destination but it's the off season. Never­the­less, he meets a girl on the train and they strike up a conversation.

Joel's voice-over random thoughts for Valentine's day, 2004: “Today is a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap.” What­ever be the happy sentiments that swell the coffers of the card companies, there's plenty of misery to go around, too, and Lacuna, Inc., a scientific company that specializes in selective memory erasure, does a brisk business this time of year helping people forget the cause of it (“February is very busy for us because of Valentine's Day.”) I'm reminded of the 1966 novelty song, “They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” by Napoleon's Ghost: “Remember when you ran away and I got on my knees and begged you not to leave because I'd go berserk? / Well, you left me any­how and the days got worse and worse and now you see I've gone completely out of my mind.” Joel's high maintenance girl­friend impulsively split and had her memories of him erased. Yesterday, Joel followed suit. It involved an office visit to map his brain, and then an in-house visit to zap the critical areas. The patient will awake the next morning in his own bed minus the troubling memories, “to … begin again.”

“Those nice men in their clean white coats … come to take away” his memories, gaily cavorting with the secretary as the brain machine on auto-pilot does its thing to Joel in his sleep. But his subconscious mind has had second thoughts, and now he's resisting. We relive with him two years of bitter­sweet memories as they are one by one slowly eliminated.


In my review of the movie, “Valentine's Day,” I pointed out the roots of Valentine's Day, how an Italian priest named Valentine married couples contrary to the Roman emperor's decree that forbad his soldiers to wed so he could have an undistracted fighting force. The priest was caught and on the eve of his execution penned a note to a supporter, signing it: ‘Your Valentine.’ This conflict between romantic impulse and worldly inter­ference is universal and Bible based,

          Song of Solomon 2:14-15

     O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock,
          in the secret places of the stairs,
     let me see thy countenance,
          let me hear thy voice;
     for sweet is thy voice,
          and thy countenance is comely.

     Take us the foxes,
          the little foxes,
     that spoil the vines:
          for our vines have tender grapes.

The spoiling foxes were once the Emperor, here they are a mad scientist Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson). Both the holiday and this movie fire our imaginations for what we all go through.

In the memory of star-gazing relived, Joel is asked to name some of the constellations. He stares clueless at the sky and finally picks out, “There's Osidius.” His girl­friend rightly remarks he's full of it, although his description of a cross and an arc might have been a geometric isohel, or perhaps he meant Osiris, the Egyptian god of the under­world—who has no constellation. His cosmology is sadly lacking. So when he realizes he can do nothing in this dream state to stop the progress of his "cure", and he stares blankly at the sky and says, “I wanna call it off,” we might rightly wonder who or what is going to answer his prayer?

A Christian might have taken the approach of, (Psalm 37:3-5) “Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thy­self also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” Joel does in fact make some effort to be a "nice guy."

In desperation he takes his dream girlfriend “off the map,” to places he'd never been to with her before, but he was there with other girls who serve as stand-ins for the special one he will meet some day. This takes him all the way back to his child­hood, to a state of relative innocence, as Jesus said, (Matt. 18:3) “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Catholic Visionary Maria Valtorta describing Jesus's triumphal entry has him explain the excited children, “The king prophet, the king of My stock, did he not say: ‘You made the perfect praise flow from the mouths of children and sucklings to confuse Your enemies’? Have you not read these words of the psalmist? Let children sing My praises. They are prompted to sing them by their angels, who see My Father incessantly and are aware of His secrets, which they suggest to these innocents.” Jesus made a similar remark in Matt. 18:10. If the angels whisper to children the secrets of God, perhaps they whispered to child­like Joel in the guise of his dream girl, “Meet me in Montauk.”

The remaining possibility is that Saint Valentine himself paid a visit along the same lines, this being his day or close enough to it. At any rate Joel's chance encounter the next day seems improbable, and his memory was too wasted to have engineered it by itself.

Production Values

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004) was directed by Michel Gondry. Screen­writer Charlie Kaufman wrote the screen­play with story con­tri­butions by Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth. It stars Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Tom Wilkinson, and David Cross. The acting was fabulous, particularly from Carrey, Winslet and Dunst. This is Jim Carrey's best performance in any film of his I've ever seen.

MPAA rated it R for language, some drug and sexual content. Bad language was not pervasive, but they weren't above cursing God's name in adverse circum­stances. Cinema­tog­rapher Ellen Kuras skillfully wielded one of two hand­held cameras used through­out. Watch the change­able hair color of the starlet to peg which time period you're seeing. Visual effects are pervasive, but CGI was only employed twice, the rest being done within the camera or by use of photo­graphic stunts.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This film had the right stuff to strike a deep chord within the psyche of the viewer. Not for any single factor of technical excellence, but for the way it all came together, is this such an out­standing film. The Sci-Fi is not the most impressive, and they sacrificed set lighting for the sake of camera mobility, but the final product was stellar. Pay attention to the waiting room scene for heavy irony. Here's a movie you should not deprive your­self of.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Don't watch this movie alone. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Print. Software.

Napoleon XIV, “They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha–Haaa!!.” Copyright © 1966, RRO Entertainment. WEB.

Pope, Alexander. From his poem, “Eloisa to Abelard.” The lines in the movie are read from, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.

Valtorta, Maria. The Gospel as Revealed to Me. Vol. 5. Translated from Italian by Nicandro Picozzi, M.A., D.D.  Revised by Patrick McLaughlin, M.A. This 2nd English Edition has now replaced the First English Edition, The Poem of the Man-God. WEB.