Looking at a monitor in New York City’s Penn Station, I couldn’t help notice a train heading towards Montauk. Memories began to flood my brain, one of which was “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, a film I had first watched 10 years ago or so. With about an hour to spare before my train departed to Washington D.C., I wondered if, should I have the option to erase all of the bad memories I have accrued throughout my lifetime, would I?

This is essentially the question that arises over the duration of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, using a romantic relationship as an example. The plot of the film is in summary: a man (Joel) meets a woman (Clementine) on a train leaving Montauk and because they’re memories have been erased, they are unaware they have already been in a relationship- as the movie unfolds, their past relationship is relived through Joel’s mind- specifically showing how it turned sour and subsequently what both parties did as a result.

Though initially an alluring concept, by the end of the film viewers feel that erasing painful memories does more damage than good. As we watch Lacuna Inc.- the corporation hired by Joel and Clementine to erase memories of their relationship- we see a web of deceit, corruption, and lies- and the ethics of a decision such as this is brought into play.  The viewer is left feeling not only empty and broken, but also violated.

What are the psychological repercussions to undergoing a procedure like this? Is the corporation held responsible for psychological damage? Is it a basic human right to have memories erased? Is it ethical? How are the memories you want erased isolated from memories that you want to keep? To what extent can a corporation intervene?

Even as Clementine and Joel find their Lacuna records and subsequently decide to restart their relationship- against Clementine’s warning that it has the potential to go in the same direction as it did before- this ending thus becomes emblematic of “love conquers all”.  And in reality, love does not conquer all, but memory does because it  equates to experience. And without experience, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

This brings me to how I plan to interweave a seemingly unrelated topic to the themes of my blog- traveling and adventure. Don’t worry, I’ll make it brief.

How come Montauk was chosen as the place for the beginning of Clementine and Joel’s romance? Because Montauk is not really the first city that comes to mind when you think of romance (just google it). Is it because of the quiet, calm, and unassuming, yet quirky qualities that Montauk seems to possess- a resemblance to the personalities of the two main characters? What do you think?


“What a loss to spend that much time with someone, just to find out that she’s a stranger.” -Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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