Clementine: This is it, Joel. It's going to be gone soon.
Joel: I know.
Clementine: What do we do?
Joel: Enjoy it.
I just emerged from my second viewing of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I went with Peter, after our regularly-scheduled Saturday workout and run, to a matinee at the Prince Charles Cinema (the fantastic second-run cinema off of Leicester Square). I'd been awfully meaning to see this film again since I first did. I orginally went into it with low-ish expectations, as I'd gotten a mixed review from an, um, friend. But as it went along, I found myself falling more and more helplessly in love with it. Now, I was very keen to see how I'd react to it a second time particularly the early scenes knowing already of my great admiration and affection for it. (Also knowing the story, which would make the early scenes more sensible and, as it turned out, more poignant.)
David Edelstein, by the way, Slate's film critic, and my absolute favourite reviewer since Janet Maslin retired at the Times, and an amazingly entertaining writer by the way, called it "best movie I've seen in a decade." Wow. (His review is well worth reading.) This both validated my feelings about the film and, somewhat embarrassingly, increased them. So, anyway, I was very keen to see it again and to see how I'd react.
Answer: Totally knocked out. The film is completely brilliant: genius writing, nearly perfect structure and stealthily flawless rhythm (which I admit is more down to direction and editing than writing).
But as for the story. Man! Pardon me for telling you what you might have already figured out perfectly well for yourself; but it is a nearly perfect parable on love. Even knowing how it's going to turn out, that things will end in boredom and disgust and pain, that their relationship is doomed to failure from the start - the two of them choose to do it again! The message being that you can't think about the end going into love. You just go! The journey is the destination. Love doesn't fret about outcomes. And hope triumphs over all.
And as a parable on love, it's also a meta-parable on life: we all know how life is going to turn out, too - with death. But that doesn't mean it's not worth doing. We plunge in. We carry on. The quote at the top of the page encapsulates much of it but not too heavy-handedly. (It also made me cry.)
At the same time, it's very funny indeed much more so than I remembered it. The Lacuna technicians smoking a joint on Joel's bed, while nibbling out of a bowl set on his comatose form though upstaged by them dancing on the bed in their underwear is worth the price of admission alone.
Even the title's fantastic the hook into the Pope poem works perfectly. (And good titles are a very big deal.)
Also, as a side note, in its aspect as science fiction, this is the best sort: it posits a counter-factual scenario and uses it to shed otherwise unsheddable light on the real human condition.
In summary: It's art, a true masterpiece. Kaufmann is a pure, inspired, and polished storyteller. This is the highest praise I can think of.
And that's what I think.