I’ve been meaning to write about this one which I watched a while back. Done in 2004, it winds up being a strange little story about a couple of people who each have a strange little procedure done to themselves so they can forget about each other. But, the story is told in such a way as to make that a bit of a surprise to discover. So yeah, I guess I might have spoiled that now, if spoilers can still exist for movies that old…
I’ll explain what I remember was important, plot-wise. Jim Carrey plays Joel and Kate Winslet plays Clementine, the woman he falls head over heels for. Twice. There’s a bit of a hitch the second time, though – neither one of them remembers the fact that Clementine deliberately had every memory of Joel wiped because she didn’t want to know him anymore and Joel was so distraught and upset over that, he later tried to do the same.
Mary (Kirsten Dunst) works for this company (that seemed less legitimate and more fly-by-night, I might add) but later discovers her boss (the always delightful Tom Wilkinson) had pretty much convinced her to go through the same treatment to get over the fact that he was never going to leave his wife and to forget she ever was in love with him. She doesn’t want to believe that shit went down, but it turns out the procedure was recorded. This is the turning point for everyone, because she quits the job and raids all the files on her way out, and delivers the vital recordings to every single person who thought that company was doing something good and beneficial to help them deal with pain.
I know I’ve said this before, but there’s nothing wrong with a little repetition if it helps a body remember something important: great or painful, experiences make us who we are. We got where we are today based on how we dealt with those experiences. Ideally, we’d all learn from a very early age how to deal with rejection and fear and loss and hurt and longing in better, more constructive ways. But we don’t. We’re ignored. We’re set aside. We’re told to shut up and cut out the tantrums but many of us aren’t shown how to get over whatever that little disappointment might have been, be it no toy at at the store or having to go to bed, or not getting to go out with friends on a school night. Probably because our parents never learned either.
So when there’s a really big disappointment, we’re lacking vital mental tools that would help us deal with that in a way that would help us grow as people instead of cripple us for years.
I hope memory erasing doesn’t become a reality. I can see it getting abused. I can see people being in charge of these machines believing they are doing a good thing when they’re really making things worse. How can you learn from a bad experience if you take away all memories you have of it? You can’t erase the memories of everyone around you at the same time, so they’ll all remember that crazy relationship that sent you around the bend a little, even if they are sent letters from the company requesting that nothing ever be said. Like that’s a promise easy to keep, or even worth keeping.
The idea is to learn from our experiences and hopefully not make the same mistakes twice. How can we ever hope to better ourselves if all we do is aim to forget what we did? How can we ever hope to better society if we collectively choose to forget or ignore the outcome of something that happened? Do we wind up doomed to repeat past failures when the lessons aren’t learned the first time around?