Zach's 10 Favorite Movies: 8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
"Too many guys think I'm a concept, or I complete them, or I'm gonna make them alive. But I'm just a fucked-up girl who's lookin' for my own peace of mind; don't assign me yours."
The first time I saw this movie, I said I loved it because it's a weird movie that everyone in my age group says they love. I saw it a few times after that, but it didn't really sink in. It suddenly began to make so much sense when I saw it as part of a film studies class I took in college. I even wrote about it for my last paper of the class, discussing the use of time and memory. I used it for another paper in college when I compared it with Jane Austen's Persuasion.
After I finally had my heart broken as badly as Joel has his, it became my favorite movie. I would watch it and so heavily identify with Joel and compare his pain to mine. When the wound was still fresh, I would think it may be that my ex and I could make it work, could say fuck it like Joel and Clementine.
But what it's really saying, what I couldn't have gotten until I got out of college, out of my own small world, is that the concept of a one true person is not that there's a perfect person out there, waiting to be snatched up. It's saying that despite their flaws, despite their infuriating habits, a person is out there to fight for, to fight against, to fight on the side of. Joel and Clementine aren't soulmates, they're two people trying to make it work because there's something that keeps them bumping into each other and wanting to bump into each other.
You'll notice this isn't the number one film on the list any more. It's a film I still feel a strong connection to and an affinity for, but as I've evolved as a person, the impulses within it are not the same impulses I have. I don't seek the manic pixie dream girl. I don't seek the person to bring me out of my shell. I don't seek to erase the pain because it's painful. I still need this film in my life, I need to relish its beauty and remember its impact, but I don't need it as a companion or explanation of my state of being like I used to.
The longing here is of course the toxicity of our nostalgic impulses. We want the good memories and not the bad. We only want to keep the ones that make us feel those feelings of completeness and joy, but those aren't the only memories that make us. The terrible, the tragic, the pained ugliness of who we were defines who we are. We can't go back, we can only go forward.