Don’t let the trailer fool you; the sudden, fast paced montages of scenes accompanied by upbeat Electric Light Orchestra’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’ make it seem like a summer rom-com, but fear not, this is not your average romance film. Luckily I saw the trailer after I saw the movie, so was spared the confusion of trying to decide exactly which genre it slots into.
Honestly, it’s a very odd film, and Gondry’s quirky visual style makes it all the stranger, but I think that’s what makes it so distinctive. The occasional unsteady camera movements and jump cuts within fragmented memories give it a raw edge that I love. Also, the limited use of lighting, particularly in the memory sequences adds a dramatic effect, like a spotlight is being shone on Clem and Joel as they frantically search for a place to hide from the disintegrating memories of their former relationship.
As the film progresses, we’re treated to tricky shots, fading images, sound distortions, and my favorite; the subtle details like the books in Barnes and Noble gradually turning white, and the way places blur into one another. With strangers in a train station winking out around them like broken streetlights, memories seemingly already erased lingering in a degraded form with faceless beings accompanied by Jon Brion’s fairground-esque score, its at times a little eerie, though harmonized with bouts of humour and tender moments, Gondry renders a perfect balance.
The film shifts back and forth from reality to inside Joel’s mind, giving you a taste of normality every so often, though I admittedly preferred watching the scenes set in the psyche, and became more absorbed in Clem and Joel’s story than with the Mary and Dr. Mierzwiak subplot, as I found Kirsten Dunst’s character to be a bit too ditsy and annoying, and it felt too much like it was a twist added out of convenience to aid the main story. Elijah Wood’s performance as the panty stealing, desperate antagonist was enjoyable, but it was hard to really dislike him. On the upside, it was nice to see him in one of his first roles since the last Lord of the Rings film.
I was also pleasantly surprised by Jim Carrey’s performance as Joel, it was refreshing to see him act seriously for once, and I would even go as far as to say I think this is his best role. Likewise, flamboyant Clementine is also very much unlike any other character Winslet has previously played, so again, it’s nice to see two big name actors in completely different roles. The fact that they both managed to pull it off shows how versatile they really are.
So despite a melancholy undertone, the film ends on a hopeful note, and left me feeling warm and fuzzy. It’s a beautifully crafted film that never fails to make me smile. An art house film at heart, it begs to be re-watched, and reveals something new each time. The concept is simple, and nicely executed, and despite being a little slow to begin with I think this is a real gem of a film, one of my favourites. Ending as it began with Beck’s ‘Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes’, which in my opinion encapsulates the mood of the film perfectly by managing to be both mildly depressing and slightly uplifting at the same time.