Gondry's clever camerawork, mimicking the ebb and flow of the mind, became instantly iconic when Eternal Sunshine premiered. Simple tricks, like Joel running from the dark vortex of a closing Barnes and Noble into the living room of his friends' home in one seamless shot, or the forced-perspective trickery that allows Carrey to become a tiny "Baby Joel" sitting under a kitchen table as Winslet's full-sized Clementine calms him down, create a dreamworld that's recognizable to anyone with a penchant for dozing off. But Kaufman captures the voice of memories in his script, too; at the picnic where they first meet, Clementine asks Joel for a piece of fried chicken. In the comfort of his own head, inner thoughts can be proclaimed. "And then you just took it," Joel says. "Without waiting for an answer. It was so intimate; like we were already lovers."
Stringing together pangs of lust, anxiety, infatuation, erratic behavior, guilt, bliss, while still finding room to explore the existential crisis of Lacuna, Inc's emotion-erasing business, Eternal Sunshine, a movie about memory, lodged itself in a corner of audiences' brains. People love the movie -- more than a decade later, critics still anoint it one of the best -- but as evidenced by the gaggle of sneaker-wearing adults willing to parade through volleyball dudes and rosé-sipping socialites down a popular Hamptons beach, people also cherish the experience of seeing the movie. They can remember how their heart sank when they first saw -- SMASH CUT -- Joel driving through his break-up waterworks while Beck's "Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime" played in the background. They can recreate the hopeful smile of Clementine asking Joel to stay at the beach house as the walls, and the memory itself, cave in.
I'm with them -- my high-school girlfriend and I saw Eternal Sunshine on opening weekend in March 2004 in a small arthouse theater in the suburbs of Philadelphia. We were crushed; if we thought nightly AIM conversations and school dances were hurdles, here was the deepest love imaginable not functioning in perfect harmony. I left wanting Jim Carrey's woolen cap, Clementine's hair, and their transcendent understanding that not everything in a relationship needs to be perfect.