Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
Though Eternal Sunshine is less cloyingly infantile than Gondry’s subsequent films (The Science of Sleep, Be Kind Rewind), he and co-writers Charlie Kaufman and Pierre Bismuth still flirt with the idea that unblemished innocence is better than the wisdom of experience. As Joel, in his best semi-serious performance since The Truman Show, Jim Carrey’s elastic face registers the weight of his pain after losing Clementine (Kate Winslet), and the proportionate freedom when his memories of her are erased. As in Being John Malkovich, our romantic misfits live in claustrophobically dark apartments and have their world unhinged by an eccentric company, here Dr. Howard Mierzwiak’s (Tom Wilkinson) memory-erasing Lacuna Inc. (“lacuna” means gap, or missing piece, in Latin). In turn, Joel and Clementine’s excursions (except soul-crushing dinners at their “favorite” restaurant) seem especially beautiful and refreshing, whether to Montauk’s snowy beaches or the frozen Charles River. Eternal Sunshine (whose title quotes an Alexander Pope poem) also features a quietly stellar supporting cast of Lacuna lackeys Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), Frodo (Elijah Wood), Tobias Fünke (David Cross) and, well, Mark Ruffalo. Several scenes (including one with a circus parading through Times Square) were improvised, which, for a movie about cherishing love’s messy unpredictability, seems a perfect match.