From page one to the final scene, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind holds a magnifying glass to the intricacies of human connection. Written over 15 years ago, Joel and Clementine roller coaster relationship still proves relatable and endlessly heart-wrenching, and the romantic sci-fi screenplay itself offers impeccable storytelling insight to this day. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind PDF Download

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WHO WROTE Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind SCRIPT?

Written by Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman is a prolific screenwriter, producer, director, and novelist. Best known for screenplays like Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, he is famous for his offbeat sense of humor. Often delving into surreal, unconventional subject matter, Kaufman has for decades proven reality and humans fragile, complicated things. 

STORY BREAKDOWN

STRUCTURE OF Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind script

Here is the story structure for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind script:

Exposition

Joel reads his diary in a voiceover. We learn about Naomi, and where he is currently in his love life.  

Inciting Incident

Joel meets Clementine on the train. 

Plot Point One

Joel learns Clementine has undergone a procedure to erase him from her memory. Joel decides to undergo the same procedure to erase Clementine from his memory.

Rising Action

Joel’s memories are being erased. The more memories he relives though the procedure’s progression, the happier (since they’re from earlier in their relationship) they become.

Midpoint

Joel realizes he doesn’t want to erase Clementine from his memory.

Plot Point Two

Joel decides to hide Clementine in other memories (ones she was not originally present for). 

Build Up

Joel and Clementine travel through Joel’s memories, but Dr. Mierzwiak keeps finding them and erasing the memories associated.

Plot Point Three

Joel realizes that Patrick, a colleague of Dr. Mierzwiak, is using Joel’s erased memories of Clementine to manipulate her into falling for him, threatening the permanent loss of Clementine from Joel’s life.

Climax

Joel surrenders, realizing he can’t keep his memories of Clementine. She will be completely erased; they decide to just enjoy the time they have left until she is. 

Denouement

Joel and Clementine “meet” again. They also receive packages from Lucana, which contain tapes from their respective sessions in which they explain why they want to erase each other. They decide to proceed with their relationship despite knowing what could happen. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Script Takeaway #1

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’s Theme

Despite vengeful time-hopping and arguments between former lovers, Kaufman still manages to drive the central theme home: without love, life is meaningless. What is perhaps the most interesting thing about this theme, though, is that it is largely portrayed by showing moments of heartbreak.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Script Teardown ETotSM Heartbreak

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Script  •  First Meeting

You could speculate based on the portrayal of events in this script that it is in moments of loss, whether intentional or not, when one’s feelings for another are strongest and most deeply known. Utter futility meets something optimistic, and hopefully. Kaufman exemplifies that moment of reckoning when Joel accepts that Clementine will be erased forever. 

Joel & Clementine meet at a beach party

Throughout the screenplay, Joel impulsively responds to Clementine, for instance, when he chooses to undergo the same memory-erasing procedure. His actions, rooted in self-preservation, keep him safe from Clementine just as much as they push her away with a vengeance. This beach party scene encapsulates the lesson Joel has learned; despite the loss of the good memories, and despite the heartache he felt with Clementine, his love for her was ultimately the most important thing. 

In his choice to enjoy the last (or first) memory with her, Joel’s reversal and growth is evident. In that way, Clementine may be “gone,” but we know their love has changed Joel, and that he will never let her go. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Script Takeaway #2

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Time Hopping

The plot progression of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is, needless to say, complex. With what feel like numerous linear plotlines, and another retrograding, Kaufman offers an exemplary look into successfully juggling timelines in a screenplay. 

The exposition of this script differs from the information needed to truly piece together Joel and Clementine’s relationship (which in a manner of speaking, has an exposition of its own). In the first pages of the screenplay, we know who Joel is and we soon meet Clementine. Through their conversation on the train, we know they have a strange connection but as of now, all they have said is really all that can be known. The scene informs the reader of who our protagonist is and what he wants, but also implies something far more off-kilter.

 Joel & Clementine meet  •  Read Full Scene

When it comes to the truth about Joel and Clementine (that they have met before), Kaufman carefully parses out what is need to connect the dots. Information about their relationship is embedded in memories as they are being erased, and keeping tabs on those employees as they erase them gives yet another uneasy feeling of imminent heartbreak. 

Mary’s plot coincides with Joel’s procedure

Kaufman introduces the poignant plotline of Mary’s past relationship with her boss and head of Lacuna, and interlaces it with Joel’s plot only as it is needed to complement Joel’s journey. By introducing her plotline gently and in a minimalist manner, and having blatant switches between reality and Joel’s head, Kaufman creates an exciting world of time-hopping while also grounding the story in humanity and the real world. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Script Takeaway #3

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Ending 

At around 120 pages, this script manages to keep you guessing right to the very end. After Joel and Clementine listen to each other’s Lacuna tapes (after undergoing the memory-erasing procedure), we wonder if their old, caustic habits will doom their relationship yet again. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Script Teardown ETotSM Ending

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Script  •  Ending

It isn’t until the last scene that we know the unique power of Joel and Clementine’s love. They have somehow defied science, and even when erased from each other’s memory, find a way to be together. 

Clementine suggests loving her will be hard work, and instead of negating or questioning her, Joel merely accepts this. With the implication that they will push forward (regardless of the possibility they may grow to hate one another), Kaufman reenforces the idea that love, a most powerful force, can prevail if it is nurtured in good and bad times alike. 

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a poignant and genre-defining script. If you want to continue reading screenplays, we have similar titles like (500) Days of Summer and La La Land in our screenplay database. Browse and download PDFs for all of our scripts as you read, write and practice your craft to become the next great screenwriter.

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