Picks and Pans Review: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

updated 03/29/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/29/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo
CRITIC'S CHOICE

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Although many producers in Hollywood consider screenwriters interchangeable, even the most crass mogul must recognize the distinctively quirky touch that Charlie Kaufman brings to a script. Consider Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. With Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a surrealistic love story, Kaufman does it again—but this time with more genuine sweetness and feeling than in his earlier, self-consciously clever films.

Mind follows, in a circuitous fashion, what happens when two estranged lovers, Joel (Carrey), an introverted drip, and Clementine (Winslet), a free spirit, both sign on for a procedure that erases the other from their minds. It will be as if their love never happened; if only life were that simple.

Over the course of Mind, directed with an effectively giddy touch by Michel Gondry (who previously collaborated with Kaufman on Human Nature), we come to see that to forget is not to forgive and only by remembering the past do we build a foundation for a future. Carrey gives a touching performance, one marked by restraint and a real understanding of the pain Joel is going through. Winslet, though, steals the show. Playing a woman given to quicksilver mood changes and outrageous utterances, she creates such a vivid, realistic character that you half expect to run into Clementine upon leaving the movie. (R)

ROMANCE

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