Charlie Kaufman’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is an incredible film reaching across countless themes. It deals with bioethics and the traumas involved in romantic love. Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey give performances that pull on even the most cynical of heartstrings.
The movie is about a painful breakup between Clementine (Winslet) and Joel (Carrey). When Joel finds out that Clementine went through a procedure to have her memory of him erased, Joel opts to undergo the same procedure. He relives his relationship with her and watches it disappear from his mental hard drive.
Why is the film so relevant in this moment? Researchers at MIT conducted a study that identified a drug that can help erase traumatic memory. Of course, the drug trials would be eons into the future, but it got me thinking about the science fiction element of “Eternal Sunshine” becoming real. It got me thinking…if one could, should one erase the memory of crippling heartbreaks?
While the drug and procedure has only been considered to be used by those with PTSD or severe depression or anxiety, it is interesting to consider it when it comes to matters of the heart. SPOILER ALERT: In “Eternal Sunshine,” Joel sees all the happy memories with Clementine during the procedure, and he decides he does not want to lose the memory of her. The film becomes this race against time where Joel holds onto the memory of Clementine for dear life and tries to bring his memory of her to the outskirts of his train of memory. I think plenty of people going through break-ups would love to have the option of having a chance at life without the weight of the memory of the person their hearts are breaking for–even if it’s just to get out of bed in the morning.
Perhaps it would be useful for a temporary way of healing. It’s the memory of the person’s touch, sleeping breaths, smile, etc., that creates the pain. It’s the “beginning of relationship” feeling with the person that makes someone sick to remember. Do these traumas, which are a part of life, help us later and just cause us pain now? Will we someday get over this person or meet someone else? I think that in most cases, yes. In others, however, it can be hard to see the end of the pain or a point where you don’t think about your significant other everyday. We’ve all heard those stories of people so in love with one another, where everything seems to be working, they go on for years and then poof. Something goes wrong. What happens to the person who thinks they’ve met “the one” only to have a fleeting relationship? In these cases, would a relationship be traumatic enough to warrant memory erasing?
I tend to hold the belief that life is just hard and can be heartbreaking and inexplicable, but our experiences become a part of who we are. They become a part of how we build relationships and help other people going through similar times. In breakups, it becomes about taking everyday one at a time and hoping it gets easier with each day, but these experiences are simply who we are.