You won’t soon forget this walk down memory lane. Actually, make that a run down memory lane.
Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) wakes up one blustery morning feeling a bit out of sorts. On his way to work, he suddenly decides to skip for the day and takes a train to the beach. On the way back, he meets Clementine (Kate Winslet), a funny young woman that talks nonsense yet seems strangely interesting. What the two people in this story don’t know is that they were once in love with each other, but can emotion endure without the memory that inspired it?
The above description doesn’t sound exactly like your typical dramatic / romantic comedy, but that’s what it is and why it works. The way the story unfolds, the order of events unfolding, and everything about the telling is unique, leaving the actors free to explore the written script to its fullest effect. This isn’t new territory for writer / director Michel Gondry (compared to the short-subject music videos that he’s done before, his jump to full-length features appears very natural), but it’s exactly the kind of film you’d expect from writer Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation).
Still expanding as an actor and proving himself yet again, Jim Carrey keeps his normal zany self reigned in to explore earnest loss and subtle madness; it’s his best work yet and harder to imagine someone bringing anything more convincing to a role in a film this bizarre. Kate Winslet thankfully gets to do something other than cry (see her filmography for details) but still winds up as the object of affection. The rest of the cast (Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, and Kirsten Dunst) mostly operate outside of the romance going on but are equally essential to it, a case of great power and great responsibility (with apologies to Stan Lee).
Unfortuantely, it’s very hard to discuss anything about this film without giving too much away, because what happens is very much tied to what happens. Suffice to say that it needs to be experienced and translates well from large to small screens. With a little science fiction thrown in to mix it up, the special effects not only serve the story but are so cleverly done and effectively used that they are accepted completely. So, if you’d like to explore the possibility of being temporarily insane while trying to remember something you were certain at the time you wanted to forget, this film is for you (but try not to think too hard about that).
(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)