If you could, would you erase the pain that came with memories of your lost love? In the one-and-a-half years Jimmy and I were broken up, we blocked off all communication. But something in me refused to let go. I don’t think it was some clandestine force that knew that we would one day be together again. I think it was just me. I knew we were over and that I’d probably never see him again, but I wanted to remember.
I watched our old favorite movies and listened to our favorite songs, and reveled in dwelling on what could have been. There was a bittersweet joy in remembering how happy we had been together and the good times we’d shared. I can absolutely see why broken relationships have fueled so many brilliantly beautiful songs. (Ex. Dylan’s understated melancholy in “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” — “But I wish there was something you would do or say/ To try to make me change my mind and stay/ We never did too much talking anyway/ But don’t think twice, it’s all right.”)
Every time I watched “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” it tugged at the hole I had in my heart, but it felt so good to feel something. Watching that movie gave me an outlet for all of the emotional turmoil I felt within but couldn’t quite express. Even before we had broken up, it was haunting to watch as Joel Barish (played by Jim Carrey) and Clementine Kruczynski (played by Kate Winslet) blindly fumbled through their lives after they had had their memories erased — acutely aware that something horribly wrong and yet completely unaware of what they were missing. It was the perfect form of torture, and one which they had each chosen to inflict upon themselves. For better or for worse, everyone you encounter changes you and who you are, I thought to myself. It pained me to see how much the characters had lost a sense of their own identity by erasing their memories of one another.
It’s more than that that gets me about “Eternal Sunshine.” With his artistic prowess, Director Michel Gondry tears open the curtains of the relationship between Joel and Clementine, shining light on the frustration, anger, pain and jealousy that can become oppressive enough to destroy a relationship once so full of love. The good, the bad and the ugly come out as we watch the tragedy of Joel and Clementine’s relationship unfold. As is so often the case when thinking back on a love lost, Gondry begins by showing us the broken pieces of a failed relationship. As Joel ventures back into his memory in a quest to erase the girl he loved who had erased him, he makes his way toward the carefree love they began with, and we realize what a perfect fit they once were. “Mierzwiak! Please let me keep this memory, just this one,” Joel pleads with the powers that be — the oblivious comedic duo of Stan (played by Mark Ruffalo) and Patrick (played by Elijah Wood), immature and girl-crazed mind erasers working at Lacuna, Inc. (Gondry leaves no doubt about the fact that Joel and Clementine are their own worst enemies. Much like the real world, the conflict and resolution in their relationship had to come from them.)
***Spoiler alert*** The brain-fried couple find themselves together once again, unaware of their in-depth history. “I’m gonna marry you…I know it!” Clementine exclaims to Joel. It’s only when they learn of their past that Joel and Clementine are finally forced to confront the relationship troubles they had tried to run away from. It’s uncanny, really, how much their decision to start over mirrors the scary, butterflies-in-my-stomach feeling when Jimmy and I finally crossed paths again, more than a year after we had written each other off. Like Joel and Clementine, we decided to full-heartedly accept one another, for better or for worse. The movie comes to an end with these subtle, but powerful last lines:
Joel: I can’t see anything that I don’t like about you.
Clementine: But you will! But you will. You know, you will think of things. And I’ll get bored with you and feel trapped because that’s what happens with me.
Clementine: [pauses] Okay.
For better or worse, I am who I am because of Jimmy and vice versa. We’ve built our lives together to the point where I don’t think I would know who I was or would be without him. It’s terrifying, really, to think of how much is at stake in this relationship and how much there is to lose. Yet we decided take a leap of faith and follow our hearts when we started our relationship anew four years ago. I know getting married will only further solidify that commitment to practice patience, acceptance and above all, love.