Spoilers, just a warning.
I'm not a major film aficionado, but I've studied just enough to be kind of a snob. Any normal person would read the info above, and recognize the actors' names. Someone like me? I see the director and writer, and that is SUPER exciting. In fact, that's what got me interested in this movie in the first place. Jim Carrey in a movie where he has his memory of his girlfriend erased? Hmm, okay. Oh wait... directed by Michel Gondry, who did all those awesome Bjork videos, and written by Charlie Kaufman, who also wrote Being John Malkovich and Adaptation??? OMG want to go!!! (Footnote: I did not know at the time that this was not Gondry and Kaufman's first collaboration. That sort of knowledge is reserved for even bigger film snobs than I am, which is what Jimmy is =P)
Before we proceed, a more detailed plot summary: Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) are total opposites who have been in a relationship for two years. They have reached that point where couples who might have been really, really in love once are now bickering all the time and are annoyed with each other and are in a rut. Rather than actively ending the relationship, Clementine decides to have Joel completely erased from her memory (yeah, there's this little bit of a sci-fi element). Joel finds out about this, and decides to have the procedure done as well, which entails re-living all the memories in reverse, as they get zapped out of your brain. As Joel goes backwards through his relationship and starts to head back into the times when they were in love and things were good, he decides he wants to keep these memories... but it's kind of out of his hands now...
I've seen this movie so many times that I forget that it takes a little figuring out when you first watch it. (I show this to my sophomores as a part of my film unit. I always get some complainers, because apparently it's not cool to have to THINK when you watch a movie. Sigh.) You don't figure it out until later, but the movie starts AFTER both their memories have been erased. (I guess that would be the "spoiler" part. Although, honestly, I think it would probably be more helpful for people who don't like thinking for themselves to know that going into the movie.) At the beginning, we see Joel and Clementine meet each other on a train and become interested in each other and begin to date, and we learn way, way later that this is actually their second meeting - either through sheer will or sheer fate, they get back together.
But anyway, that's not even the most important part of the movie. The most important part is the middle - seeing Joel's memories of Clementine and his touching attempts (in his own head) to save what is left of their best memories before they get zapped out of his brain. Instead of watching the breakdown of a relationship, we're watching it go in reverse - and you can't help but root for Joel. Logically, there's no way he can really stop what's going on because he's lying in his bed unconscious while he's essentially "dreaming." There is a whole other side plot with the other characters, and while I don't really care to get into that right now, I will just say that they all do a really great job as well.
Accenting the wonderful storytelling is the score, done by Jon Brion. I am SO familiar with it and with the movie, that hearing the music alone is enough to draw tears, because I can remember which part of the movie it was from. The theme is simple and beautiful and just so poignant.
This movie makes me cry, every time. When Joel loses his last memory, there is such a feeling of loss. It's horrible to lose someone you love (even through a break-up, let alone death), but to lose your memory of them as well? I'd have to think that that's even worse. Would I ever erase my memories? I would say not - everything that happens to me shapes who I am.
I want so much to post a clip of the last memory of Clementine (which, actually, is his FIRST memory of her, the one where they first meet), because that is the most powerful scene in the whole movie, for me, but it's nowhere to be found. However, someone did post the scene where Joel first comes across a memory that he wants to keep. It's such a beautiful, intimate scene:
And here is a slideshow that someone set to the movie theme:
If you've never seen it, you really should. It's well-made, well-acted, and well-written enough to please the film snobs, but it's also just... the sort of movie that lingers inside you. I just can't seem to find the right words to describe the profound effect it has had on me - there's a sort of catharsis involved. There's a lot of emotion in this movie, counterbalancing the unconventional storytelling structure and the sci-fi element and all that... All that stuff makes the movie really cool and philosophical and interesting, but at the very core, there are the emotions that get elicited, and while the movie is enjoyable and entertaining, it also really makes you think - about it, about yourself, and about your memories. It makes you think and it makes you feel, but in an intelligent way - it's not a maudlin tearjerker like some of the chick-flicks *cough*THE NOTEBOOK*cough*, and it's not a dumb, desensitizing, shoot-em-up action movie. It's just... something completely different and completely special from many movies and films that I've ever seen, and it is absolutely my favorite movie of all time, and I think it makes you a better person for having seen it and for being able to appreciate it.
"This is it, Joel. It's going to be gone soon."
"What do we do?"