Ten years ago when a friend said, “We have to go see the new Jim Carrey movie,” I immediately agreed. Whether it was to my brother, my parents, friends or boys I dated, I always quoted Jim Carrey movies. “Finkle is Einhorn,” I would yell and my brother would shout back, “Einhorn IS Finkle!”. But 10 years ago I hadn’t paid much attention to the advertisements and commercials and didn’t realize I was on my way to see Jim Carrey in a drama. Or that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind would become one of my favorite films of all time and each time I’d watch it, I’d learn something new about it and myself.
I went to see ESOTSM already loving Jim Carrey as the kind of actor/comedian who induced tears from making you laugh so hard in films like Ace Ventura, Liar Liar and Dumb and Dumber. I had no idea that he was going to take such a dramatic turn and make me fall in love with his character, Joel. Gone was the physical comedy; the shouting, crazy expressions. Instead here was an actor portraying the vulnerability of falling in love and dealing with a break-up with such quiet subtlety, it was breathtaking. There are so many scenes where the emotion in his eyes said more than three pages of dialogue.
I should also mention that it was at this exact time, I was in love for the first time. And I felt like Joel. I wanted to be Clementine. (Played equally as brilliantly by Kate Winslet). But I was the Joel in the relationship. The shyer, quieter one who was enthralled by someone who seemed far more exciting and interesting than I felt. Like Joel I would have run away that first night they met in Montauk when Clementine broke into someone’s house and wanted to pretend they lived there. But I also would have sought her out afterwards like he did when he realized something about her made him feel alive. Before I met my own male “Clementine,” I can remember wishing for someone to walk into my life to make me feel something, anything! Even if it was tumultuous and a little off-kilter or scary. I didn’t necessarily want someone to take me along while they committed a crime, but I wanted someone to see possibility in me like Clementine did in Joel. Someone who needed to be coaxed into sharing her life, but also worth the effort to draw me out. I saw so much of myself in Joel.
It’s a decade later and this film still moves me. I always loved Eternal Sunshine because I believed it was one of the best kinds of love stories. We’ve all been in the position where the hurt is so bad we wish we could erase someone completely from our minds. But being human and growing is learning how to accept the wonderful memories with the awful ones. They have to co-exist. Jim’s character Joel says it best with the line, “I can’t remember anything without you.” We can’t cherry pick what we remember, we have to go all in for it. That’s what love is all about. But it’s taken me a decade to realize that Jim Carrey himself is another reason why this movie is so important. His performance shows that no matter how people might categorize you or how you even might have pigeonholed yourself, there can always be an opportunity to break away from those labels and show a side of yourself that fear or lack of confidence might have otherwise prevented.
So thank you, Eternal Sunshine. Thanks for being the amazing film that you are, and thank you Jim Carrey for proving that anyone’s expectations about us—even our own—can be exceeded.