'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' quietly made it's way to the big the screen about the time my taste for film began to mature. I was growing, realizing that there was more to cinema than popcorn flicks.
As you would expect from a Charlie Kaufman screenplay, 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' is a clever, unique, and definitely odd non-linear film that takes place (mostly) in the dreams of a lovesick man named Joel (Jim Carrey). After his relationship with Clementine (Kate Winslet) falls apart, Joel hires a high-tech company run out of a low-tech office to wipe every memory of her from his crushed mind. Soon enough, Clementine will be completely erased from his memories – blissful selective amnesia.
The memory-erasing process is interesting. Once Joel falls asleep, a small team of scientists enters his apartment, hook him up to special equipment, and begins wiping away every remnant of Clementine. They clear the most recent memories first, then continue working their way backwards to the beginning. As the memories are erased, sleeping Joel relives each one. The small details disappear first, then larger things are wiped away, until Clementine herself disappears.
As Joel experiences every moment with Clementine again, starting with the bickering and fights at the end of their relationship, and working his way back to their happy beginnings, he decides the good memories outweigh the bad, that he doesn't want to erase them forever. But how do you stop someone from erasing your memories while you're dreaming?
Truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of Jim Carrey. When he's working under a director that can curb his zaniness and bring him down to reality, he's brilliant – but that doesn't happen nearly enough. 'The Truman Show' and 'Eternal Sunshine' are the only times that a director has been able to do it. Carrey truly shines here as the depressed Joel.
Kate Winslet, on the other hand, is always fantastic, even when she appears in terrible films, she's great. Clementine is a lighter, more refined, non-drug-addict version of Helena Bonham Carter's Marla Singer in 'Fight Club.' Clementine is a lot more likable. She's spontaneous, eccentric and beautiful. I challenge any man to try not falling in love with her.
As if the central characters weren't enough reason to watch 'Eternal Sunshine' -- which they definitely are -- French director Michel Gondry's direction secures the film's status as a five-star production. The way he brings the fluid strangeness of dreams to life has never been achieved at this level. What makes it even more noteworthy is that Gondry accomplished it almost entirely without CG special effects. The impractical practicality of his shooting style proves remarkably effective when seeing the final product.
'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' is one of my very favorite films. Heartbreak has never been so divine and openly welcome as it is in 'Eternal Sunshine.' This is truly a diamond in the rough, a pitch-perfect film.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Eternal Sunshine' makes its way onto Domestic Blu-ray for the first time on a region-free BD-50 disc in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. Being a Focus Features title, the Blu-ray is distributed by Universal Studios Home Entertainment and features the standard Universal menus.
Being a 2004 catalog title, the picture quality of 'Eternal Sunshine' is very good, but not nearly as strong as it could be. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
For those who love a fair amount of film grain, this 1080p presentation should leave you happy. The majority of the scenes show great sharpness.Individual follicles sprouting from Joel's facial hair can often be seen quite clearly, but at times, the pictures seems too soft. Any time the film is blurry, it is the result of Gondry's shooting style. Don't mistake this directorial decision for a bad transfer. Rich blacks fill the film, which was obviously transferred from a perfectly clean print. DNR and edge enhancement are absent here.
As a result of design color is often muted and washed-out, just as they are meant to appear. Fleshtones inherit a sort of pale, dead feeling - but these artistic desicions only occur outside the dream and in the last of Joel's memories. Within the dream, especially when love and passion are about, colors are vibrant, sharp and saturated. There is only one item of color that consistently pops on the screen any time present - both inside and outside the dream - and that is Clementine's hair.
While the transfer could have been given a bit more love, taking into account that it's already been transfered to HD once before, this is presumably the best 'Eternal Sunshine' will ever look - and it is a huge step up from the DVD.
The lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is truly impressive.
As the film opens with a catchy track from Jon Brion's fantastic score, Joel's narration clearly and perfectly flows from the center channel as if it were the voice in your own head. As he leaves his apartment and makes his way through the first wide open sound-filled space - a train station - sounds begin to fill the other channels in a subtle manner. Before long, you're completely engulfed in an all-encompassing world of sound.
With each channel playing its own part, the mix of dialogue and music is perfect. Because a large chunk of the film takes place within a dream, the audio is very dreamlike. As Joel sleeps and the outside conversation between the two erasers begins to creep into his dreams like a faint voices, they seamlessly float around from speaker to speaker, adding to the confusion that Joel experiences. As Brion's score takes a playful quirky flavor, it begins popping around the room in an impressive manner, truly adding to the chaotic dreamlike experience. Hearing the score – more specifically, the harps and clarinets - in true surround sound will make you want to go out and buy the soundtrack immediately.
As you would expect from a dream brought to reality, the dynamics are all over the place. From music to dialogue, it jumps up and down the spectrum - but once again, that's part of a creative decision. The levels do not fluctuate around without rhyme or reason, it instead adds to the chaos. The only time that popping and clicking can be heard is during a piece of the score that dons the sounds of an aged vinyl record. Just like every other oddity, it's an intentional flaw.
While there are plenty of great special features found on the Blu-ray, all are in distractingly bad-looking standard definition. Even die-hard fans of the film – like me – may have a hard time viewing them.
'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' looks better on Blu-ray than most of the film's fans could ever have hoped. It's not perfect, but this is a good catalog release. The Blu-ray arrives with a solid, if occasionally soft video, excellent audio, and the same supplements as the DVD. Being one of the very best films of all time, it deserves to be in your collection. And while there aren't any new features, revisiting such a unique film in High-Def makes this Blu-ray a worthy upgrade.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.