I have to admit, I wasn’t always a fan of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I was concerned at first about straight-faced Jim Carrey; his facial gymnastics are a gift from the gods, transcending time and space, and that’s something that should never be taken for granted. However, after re-watching the film, I realized there are some golden nuggets of wisdom in the movie that are absolutely worth sharing. Here are just a few love and life lessons I gathered from my last watch:
1. Having things in common has little or nothing to do with love.
Clementine (Kate Winslet) and Joel (Jim Carrey) have virtually nothing in common—she’s got blue hair, bizarre interests, and a free spirit, and he looks like your average Joe, quiet with a penchant for lying around. Still, these two have an intense chemistry and an even more intense desire to hold onto each other forever. Their bond obviously extends far beyond liking the same music or movies; they change each other and adjust the way they both see the world.
2. You can’t force a connection.
After wiping Clementine’s memory, Patrick (Elijah Wood) attempts to make her fall in love with him by recreating the memories she and Joel shared together. He even goes so far as to take her to the same pond where they fell in love and recite the exact lines Joel said to her. Still, she just doesn’t feel the same way for Elijah as she did for Joel. Her feelings were specific to him as a person, not to the things he said or did. Attraction is not always something that can be dissected or pinpointed.
3. We can’t choose who we love.
This goes hand in hand with number two: It’s stressed in the movie that even after a previous partner has been erased from memory, the eraser often comes to feel something for the erased, again. Often times, people say that if they could go back to before the relationship, they’d probably never be attracted to them in the first place. However, in the movie, both Clementine and Mary (Kirsten Dunst) feel the very same chemistry and attraction for their previous partners when they meet them a second time around. They don’t know why, they just feel very strongly for them. Again, it can’t be pinpointed or controlled. There is no such thing as a “checklist” for love.
4. The good AND the bad are essential for growth.
Every character in the movie wishes they could reverse the erasing process. Regardless of the pain they’re feeling when the relationship’s ended, these characters are aware that these memories are an essential part of who they are and what they’ve become. Without these memories, they are not the same people they would have been. Let’s face it, we can all learn something from even the most painful relationships.
Rebecca Hillary is a film enthusiast and freelance writer from Detroit, Michigan, whose work has been featured in Thought Catalog, Real Detroit Weekly and FilmObsession.com. She has a thing for candy, cookies and Clint Eastwood. You can follow her blog, BeccaHillary.com or find her on Twitter @localbeanie.