Example Development Notes: ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND

Trainees Example Studio Coverage

“The script is built upon the interesting and unusual concept of a couple choosing to erase all traces of each other from their respective memories when their relationship ends…” Extracts from a script report by our trainee Daniela Piper-Vegh, based on a reading of the ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND script: CLICK HERE to read the script.

TITLE:  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

AUTHOR: Charlie Kaufman

PREPARED BY: Daniela Piper-Vegh

DATE: 1/26/16

 

Concept:

The script is built upon the interesting and unusual concept of a couple choosing to erase all traces of each other from their respective memories when their relationship ends. Erasing these memories is supposed to enable them to start over, and remove the pain of their breakup. The script explores the problems of taking such drastic steps. The concept has strong audience appeal, as it deals with the universal theme of relationships. The script explores a wide range of emotions associated with breakups such as anger, regret, and wanting to move on. There are several striking visual elements in the story which have good cinematic appeal. The roles of the loquacious lead characters would also be attractive to established talent in their 30’s. However, the premise of medically erasing memories does threaten to make the story slightly unbelievable.

 

Story Structure: 

By introducing the principal characters CLEMENTINE and JOEL on Valentine’s Day, the audience is given a clear indication of the romantic focus of the story. The importance of these characters is further reinforced by the script focusing exclusively on Joel and Clementine for the majority of the opening 22 pages. The singularity of focus means that the audience is offered little else to intrigue them apart from the principal characters’ idle conversation. The script has a visually engaging opening, with the mundane grayness of business commuters in the train station illuminated by the appearance of a red heart-shaped box of candy under Joel’s arm. The characters do not, however, have a clear set of goals at the start, making it difficult for the audience to follow their progress throughout the story. Clementine’s suggestion that her ‘goal’ is to ‘just let it flow through me’ is unclear, as are her attempts to explain what she means by this…

 

Characters / Dialogue:

The script is dominated by dialogue rather than action. The focus on conversational dialogue at the beginning of the script, when the characters first meet, is not particularly engaging as it lacks conflict and does not reveal very much about the characters. The characters lack distinctive voices, and they all sound very similar to each other. Both Clementine and Joel are prone to long, rambling speeches, making them less distinguishable from each other. The swearing could also be cut out of script in order to make it more accessible to a wider demographic. For instance, Clementine’s unnecessary swearing after losing her ticket adds nothing to the script or to the development of the character. Clementine’s repetition of her sentiments in her first long encounter with Joel is also unnecessary. She has already mentioned that she thinks he is ‘nice’ and that she is ‘sorry’ for having ‘yelled at him before’. Such repetitions do not help advance the emotional journey of the characters.

It is also a shame that the script finds the need to rely on Clementine’s colorful hair to distinguish between the character’s emotional phases, as she herself ruefully remarks, rather than developing ‘an actual personality’ p.9.

The supporting characters Dr. Mierzwiak, Mary, Patrick and Stan are not introduced very effectively, despite the fact that they become increasingly important in the second half of the script. There is also a menacing quality about Dr. Mierzwaik, as he and Stan try and chase Joel through memories that they have already erased. It is slightly confusing to present Mierzwaik in this way, as Joel willingly sought out his help and asked for his memories to be erased. It is not clear why Joel would not have known from the start what Mierzwaik was really like. Mary’s love for Dr. Mierzwaik is not very compelling, as the audience is not given the opportunity to fully empathize with either of the characters. The relationship between Patrick and Clementine also feels unbelievable, and does not add very much to the main story line.

 

Overall:

The script has the potential to convey an engaging and memorable romantic story, with strong visual elements. The structure of the story, however, could be made easier for the audience to follow. The dialogue could also be made more character specific, to make the characters act and sound different from one another, rather than relying on Clementine’s colorful hair to distinguish between the characters’ emotional phases…

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