Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Blue’s Beats #6
Blue’s Beats is a new blog series where we break down various nominated feature screenplays by identifying and discussing their important beats.
Today we’ll be taking a look at the 2004 romantic science-fiction comedy-drama Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michael Gondry. The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
To view a .pdf of the screenplay, click here.
After a whirlwind romance goes awry, Joel and Clementine elect to have their memories of one another permanently erased with the help of a fictional medical procedure. The non-linear narrative takes place mainly in Joel’s mind, allowing the audience to experience the full time-bending, spirograph-like story arc that’s both emotionally satisfying and memorably surreal.
(Pages 5-10) In the opening moments, Clementine ambles into Lacuna Memory Erasure looking exhausted and perhaps a little hung-over. She announces that she has an appointment, and in short order is taken in to see the doctor. Clementine begins recounting her romantic entanglement with Joel, and the action flashes back to the fateful day when the pair met on a cold, cloudy day in Montauk.
PLOT POINT ONE
(Pages 29-32) After a startlingly brief period during which we’re treated to some of the ups and downs of Joel and Clementine’s relationship, the action abruptly cuts to Joel as he discovers that Clementine has decided to undergo the procedure to erase him from her memory. Joel, in a fit of despair, decides to respond in kind, eager to rid himself of the memory of his cruel and inhuman lover.
(Pages 55-65) The midpoint of the films isn’t a definitive moment per se, but it takes places in a sort of frenzied fever-dream inside of Joel’s own mind, as the personification of his own consciousness races from vignette to vignette, impotently trying to stop the memories from being erased. These sequences are intercut with ones from the “real world,” wherein the employees of Lacuna get some more characterization as the work together to make sure the procedure goes smoothly.
PLOT POINT TWO
(Pages 70-76) Joel’s subconscious meddling in his own procedure had led the Lacuna employees to call in their boss, Dr. Mierzwiak. Through a fortuitous combination of circumstances, the good doctor and one of his employees, Mary, are left alone together, though it quickly becomes clear that Mary’s romantic intentions are less that innocent. Later, it’s revealed that Mary voluntarily erased her history and intentions with Mierzwiak after the pair were discovered, in a moment of weakness, by his wife
CRISIS AND CLIMAX
(Pages 81-90) Mary, having (understandably) forgotten about her previous memory erasure, recoils in horror when she discovers that she’s fallen into that same obsessive pattern yet again. In a desperate attempt to reconcile her forgotten past and shattered present, Mary sends the records of all the previous memory erasure operations out to their respective clients—with disastrous consequences.
(Pages 110-121) Joel and Clementine discover the shocking evidence of their respective memory erasures, but providence dictates that these two star-crossed lovers must find their way back to one another in the end. Though neither has any memory of the other, they both know from the Lacuna files that their previous relationship ended in misery. Despite the bleak prognosis, Joel and Clementine decide to begin their relationship anew, come what may.