“What a shame to know someone all this time, only to find out they’re a stranger..please let me keep this memory..”
Joel (Jim Carrey) stars as a man saddened to discover that his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had her memories of their relationship erased. In response, he contacts Lacuna, Inc., the outfit responsible for the procedure, and demands to have her removed from his head as well. Joel’s brain-fry doesn’t go entirely as planned. Once sedated, he begins reliving the most recent, most volatile episodes from their relationship first. As the bad times slowly give way to earlier, more hopeful experiences, Joel decides he doesn’t want to let those memories go. He realizes that losing bittersweet memories is more painful than living with them.
I admire this movie for a few reasons. The characters aren’t your stereotypical couple. Clementine is quirky and outgoing, and her moods change as frequently as the color of her hair. (Which range from lime green to dark blue). Then there is Joel, who is introverted and safe. They are completely different and oddly paired which is refreshing to see. Furthermore, though unrealistic regarding the procedural circumstances, this movie perfectly sums up a very common struggle-wanting to forget anything unpleasant. Just because some memories are unpleasant, does not mean we aren’t supposed to remember them. Memories change us, it is the change that is scary.
My favourite scene is the one that I shared below, and this is because it conveys the message above beautifully.The establishing shot is showing a house falling apart. The shot following is higher than the regular medium angle. This focuses the audience on the subject, making them more sympathetic towards Joel. He mentions that he felt like a scared little kid and the scene really captures this feeling of being small, of being afraid of change. Then, there is a montage of scenes that are sporadic and disorganized. Joel sits in pain as the audience watches his heartbreak approach him just as fast as the moving train he is on. The train moves for what feels like a long time, emphasizing the reality that our unwanted moments in life seem to drag on forever. Even though we want to escape them, they are meant to happen, and so we sit and wait for them to pass.
Joel: [In the house on the beach] I really should go! I’ve gotta catch my ride.
Clementine: So go.
Joel: I did. I thought maybe you were a nut… but you were exciting.
Clementine: I wish you had stayed.
Joel: I wish I had stayed too. NOW I wish I had stayed. I wish I had done a lot of things. I wish I had… I wish I had stayed. I do.
Clementine: Well I came back downstairs and you were gone!
Joel: I walked out, I walked out the door!
Joel: I don’t know. I felt like I was a scared little kid, I was like… it was above my head, I don’t know.
Clementine: You were scared?
Joel: Yeah. I thought you knew that about me. I ran back to the bonfire, trying to outrun my humiliation.
Clementine: Was it something I said?
Joel: Yeah, you said “so go.” With such disdain, you know?
Clementine: Oh, I’m sorry.
Joel: It’s okay.
Clementine: Well come back and make up a goodbye at least. Let’s pretend we had one..
(Clip of the scene below).