Eternal Sunshine Of A Spotless Mind: Why it is worth seeing

Teagan Rowland's picture

There are a lot of films that are recommended as "must watch" or "worth the watch," but I'm here to tell you that Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind is truly worth the hour and forty-eight minutes of running time. 

Eternal Sunshine Of A Spotless Mind: Why it is worth seeing

The colour scheme and cinematography are breathtaking, and the unique and engrossing plot leaves a lasting impression that is hard to forget. For those who from this short paragraph want to watch the film and hate spoilers, I suggest watching it and coming back to read this in-depth breakdown, as there are major spoilers ahead.

The 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind is not solely defined as a sci-fi film, but connects with other genres, including romance and comedy. Genres are important in deciding the mood, plot, and tone of a film. It also affects and changes the cinematography and the types of shots used. 

The film director and cinematographer of Eternal Sunshine is Ellen Kuras, whose work shows subtle visual metaphors that give meaning behind the shots taken and camera angles, as well as the story being told through the perspective of the viewers. 

The film follows a difficult breakup of Clementine (the ex-girlfriend) soughting out a procedure to forget her ex-boyfriend Joel. After learning about this, he swears to do the same. In a few shots, Joel's memories of his time with Clementine begin to blend together as other parts of his memory are being deleted, giving the impression that time and space are moving quickly. This shows how reality and memories are hard to distinguish. Joel is determined to stop the treatment and stop his memories from disappearing. He drags an image of Clementine around as he fights against the death of his memories. His feelings of remorse and terror as he desperately wants to remember his time with his ex-girlfriend are highlighted by the wobbly and uneven way the camera tracked the emergence of his final remaining memoirs. 

Eternal Sunshine Of A Spotless Mind: Why it is worth seeing
Photo: Flickr cc 


Ellen Kuras filmed with a handheld camera instead of using fluid shots, making the scenes more casual and less formal like the characters, and empathising with Joel's recollections and feelings as the films progresses. Kuras also uses quite a few overhead shots as well as long shots, which I found were mostly used when Joel was in a state of panic. This allowed me to make the connection that when there was a long angle shot, disaster was about to strike (Pavlus. J, 2020) .

The use of close-up and extremely close-up shots, as well as how the shots are pieced together, in the scene where Joel and Clementine are in the bookstore where she works, gives the impression that viewers are peeping in on their relationship from beyond the bookstore's aisle. There are numerous shots taken from behind one of the bookshelves that give this particular feeling of prying, as both characters are unable to fit in the frame. This might be a reference to how only one side of the narrative is revealed in Joel's memory. 

As a result, when certain things are stated to us as the audience, rather than seeing both characters respond, we adopt Joel's perspective and witness Clementine from his point of view, which further illustrates and deepens the scene and how much Joel truly feels towards clementine as he picks her over anyone else.

Visual elements

The visual elements that express and frequently determine character, situation, and action in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the colour palette used is very distinctive and projecting. For example, Clementine has a very colourful palette; to show this, the colours used are bright such as reds and oranges. Brighter colours represent happiness, pleasure, and joy, which is what Joel perceives her as. In addition, the reds used could represent impulsiveness, which we have seen Clementine to be (for instance, the circumstances on which she decides to erase memories of Joel). 

Furthermore, the majority of Joel's memories are vivid and colourful, in contrast to his reality, which is shown as being dreary and dull while also using very chilly tones. 

The scenes when Joel is in reality share a similar colour palette to the Twilight Saga. Although they do not share the same genre (Twilight being a fantasy saga), the colours that are used both have a cold and chilly feel to the lighting, characters, location, and props. I connected these two points with Joel's emotions and how depressed he had been after the breakup. This colour scheme employed in the pictures also demonstrates how Joel only views Clementine favourably, even in difficult circumstances, as seen by the fact that she is the light in his otherwise drab and colourless existence.


The whole budget for The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind was 20 million dollars, which is relatively low for a film given that the typical budget for a film with all costs included is between 65 to 100 million dollars (Bedard.M, 2022). For the price range, the cinematography and visual aesthetic were more than enough. The impression that the movie was realistic came from the way in which it was perceived. 

For example, seeing the film from Joel's eyes as well as my own gave me the notion that I was genuinely in the film, since the scenes were choppy and dependent on how the character felt. You could counter that the film's erratic cinematography was what made it unconventional and strange because most successful movies relied on the regularity and consistency of varied shots and the way that scenes blended into one another. The metaphor for on-going calm, contentment, and carefreeness utilised in regard to Eternal Sunshine is perpetual sunshine. 

In other words, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind is a description of the happiness and joy an individual might feel when the bad memories of someone or something have been cleared from their mind.

So there you have it, my sincere thoughts on a personal favourite, as well as many reasons why this film in particular is a MUST WATCH. 

Teagan Rowland is the Cultural Editor for Wandering Educators, and is currently pursuing a media and communications degree at London Metropolitan University. She is passionate about photography and how the world looks through different lenses, ranging from capturing landscapes to more intimate portraits. You can find her occasionally penning pieces about her photographic experiences. Teagan is an enthusiastic consumer of television, film, and books, immersing herself deeply in the realms of both mediums. She has dedicated over 12 years to practising Goju-Ryu Karate, where she's attained the rank of junior black belt.