Episode 5: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Leech

50m ·

Episode 5: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Leech

After another eye-opening Leech Anatomy 101 segment (2:39), Aaron, Banks and Evan dive into Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind ’s leechiest themes (11:29), scenes (16:37), and characters (23:04). To get some relief, the guys head into their second Leech on a Beach segment (33:32). They conclude by considering the film’s medicinal qualities (36:15) and giving an overall rating -- from 1 to 4 -- of the film’s leechiness (43:26).

We’re always looking to expand our pond -- please reach out!

Series URL: www.theleechpodcast.com

Public email contact: theleechpodcast@gmail.com

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External Links:

  • “Leeches,” Australian Museum [link]


Evan  00:11

Hey everyone. Welcome back to the leech podcast, the most visceral podcast. As always, the leech podcast is a show about movies that suck the life out of you, but also stick with you, and may even be good for you. I'm joined as always by my two favorite leechy gentlemen, Aaron Jones, and Banks Clark. Hey guys.

Banks  00:32

Hey Hey

Aaron  00:34

Hey Hey Hey

Evan  00:34

It is great to be with you again. Listeners might remember the three of us used to teach together that we discovered our shared love of difficult movies that make your heart bleed. And of course, we used to teach together now we leech together. So it is great. Great to be together as always. We have a packed show for you all again today. This is I think we're halfway through our first season of the leech podcast, which is very exciting. Today we'll be talking about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a 2004 film starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. We will dive into that as we go. We always also are looking to expand our pond. So to that end, if you like, communicate with us @leechpodcast on Twitter, and theleechpodcast on Instagram. Please send us your ideas, your thoughts, your feelings. We like all those things. And this week in particular, if there is a leechy novel, a book, a story…

Aaron  01:43


Evan  01:43

… that is leechy for you, we would love to know what that novel is, because if there's enough “suction” on this idea, oh, we might need to have any tea book club. So @leechpodcast on Twitter, theleechpodcast on Instagram. Please send us your leechy novels, Jen. So other other other things that the listeners should chime in on,

Aaron  02:06

But don't send us leechy navels! Like if there's a leech on your belly, but...

Evan  02:11

… A leech in your navel actually should probably you should probably go talk to your doctor.

Aaron  02:15

…. Talk to your primary care physician.

Banks  02:18

That just makes me think of that one scene in The Matrix. The part where that thing goes right in...

Aaron  02:23

Oh, oh, that is the truly leechy naval scene of all, yes.

Evan  02:28

That scene has stuck with us. Okay, before we dive into this episode, Aaron, please teach us about leeches.

Aaron  02:36

“Teach us about leeches”. Yes. Well, this week’s movie where we watched was a little more romantic. So I was wondering about that, you know, with your romantic partner, I was kind of looking each other in the eye. And I was wondering, could I look a leech in the eye. And I became curious about the eyes of leeches. I found this bit of information from the Australian museums kind of natural history museum in Sydney. And it is sort of deliciously vague in a way that I want to share with you. And these are about the sensory organs of leeches and I quote, sensory organs on the head and body surface enable it to detect changes in light intensity, temperature, and vibration. chemical receptors on the head provide a sense of smell and there may be, this is what gets me, there may be one or more pairs of eyes.

Evan  03:36

One or more?

Aaron  03:39

One or more pairs of eyes. The number of eyes and their arrangement can be of some use in identification. However to properly identify a leech, dissection is required. I was struck by that this time whether that some different kinds of leeches have one set of eyes. Some have none, apparently, and some have many. And I'd like to know more. Anyway, looking a leech in the eye may be difficult because probably all they can see of you is a shadow in the way of the sun.

Evan  04:09

Wow, that that feels apt for this...Sunshine

Aaron  04:13


Evan  04:14

Wow, look, well, points. Anyone who makes a metaphor out of that bit of leech anatomy. Thank you, Aaron. So let's dive into this episode. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  Banks, will you tell us what happened in this film?

Banks  04:30

Well, I will try. As always, quick spoiler warning. If you have not seen this movie, pause this episode and go watch it. There are some movies that you can hear about and then watch. And guess what you could do it here and you would be doing yourself a terrible disservice. The first time watching this film you will be transported in 1000 different directions and it is a delightful transportatio--and it's just worth have been carried along in that journey. So watch the movie if you haven't, then unpause this leech podcast and purse and then we can leech with you. So quick spoiler warning. And this is a movie that has multiple timelines, you know, these timelines converge, they diverge, and it's definitely it's …. you know, we just recently watched it, I'm still, like, late, which timeline was happening when, but it's, it's really remarkable how it all comes together. The movie starts we meet Joel Joel Barish. He's played by Jim Carrey, you know, sort of quiet character. And there's this really interesting use of voiceover, where we learned that this very sort of quiet, normal, somewhat boring gentleman all of a sudden is doing a very impulsive action, on been sort of surprised, and even to himself, and he ends up on a beach in Montauk, where he meets a woman and they all of a sudden have this unexpected chemistry and the woman is, in a clementine paid brilliantly by Kate Winslet. And through the sort of the course of their conversations, and everything, you realize there's some sort of interesting history, there's some things that make sense. And then all of a sudden viewers are transported to a different moment. Right, to a different time at which, actually, this relationship has been ongoing for some reason. And also that there's been a fight, and that the relationship ended. And so all of a sudden, the viewers made very terribly aware that there are multiple things going on at once. The histories don't align properly. And what we learn is that after this fight, Clementine, who is this, you know, opposed to you know, Joel, who's this, you know, very sort of boring, keeps himself more of a quiet gentleman, Clementine is, you know, she changes her hair color all the time, she's impulsive, she's vivacious, she's all over the place. And what she has done after the fight is actually go to this, it looks like a dentist’s office, it's like the world's most mundane-looking thing for a sci-fi film. But it's like this futuristic technology that wipes up like a very specific traumatic memory from your brain, in a very specific way, and that she has had this done. And Joel learns this through some friends who shouldn't have been able to like to pass it along, but Joel learns. And then he is then realizing that he's in this different, like an area that he himself needs to have this done. And so then he goes and demands that this same office, you know, do this procedure on him because it is too painful for him to know that she has wiped him from her memory. And so, all of a sudden, we're caught in these timelines, that's also you know, where we started. There's the timeline of the history of him learning about it, but also we learn we're actually in the timeline of him actually undergoing the procedure as he sleeps.

Aaron  08:23


Banks  08:24

And what we then learned is that through the course of him actually going to the procedure, he decides he does not want it. He decides that, actually, their relationship was so powerful was so meaningful, that in spite of all the bad things, he wants them to stop....but he's already asleep. They're already wiping his brain and it's hilarious. The technicians doing it are played by Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst. Mark Ruffalo plays Stan and Kirsten Dunst plays Mary, who are themselves are in a relationship, and themselves are like throwing like a party while they're doing it. We also recently then we also learned that Elijah Wood is playing this character named Patrick, who is stealing Jim Carrey's identity in order to be able to date Clementine. So Jim carries obviously, Joel's identity to steel to be able to date Clementine. Right. So we have all these crazy timelines happening at once you learned that the doctor in charge of this entire facility actually had a relationship with one of the technicians. So you have these love triangles. All of this is happening while Jim Carrey is asleep, trying to evade the very process. And the thing that is giving, you know, Joel and Clementine the ability to evade, right, this process of wiping the memory of the relationship, the very life of the relationship, what's keeping them and sort of the very vital breath of that alive is the fact that there is something about the relationship that allows them to want to do something different, do something impulsive, and that breaks the cycle and they're able to evade through memories and all these, you know, interesting psychological pathways, they're able to sort of thwart parts of the procedure. And in the end, interestingly, they fail...and the procedure succeeds. So it would seem. Because Jim Carrey wakes up the procedure, seemingly a success, and we are brought back to the very opening scene of the movie, where he is then, for some reason, this boring man impulsively does something almost like Clementine would, and they end up in Montauk. And these, you know, two individuals who had erased one another from one another's memory, insist upon meeting one another, again, in spite of themselves. And it ends on this hopeful but restrained hope or they found each other again. But will this repeat again? That’s the movie.

Evan  11:12

Yes. Yes. Really? Well, put Thank you Banks. So we're going to move into the leechy. See, or sorry, leechy themes from this movie? And I think I'll just build off something you left us with there, Banks, which is this interplay… so my theme would be the interplay between their individual choices, and I don't know, fate, I guess. The theme is, can maybe another way to put is, can people change? Or are they always going to repeat patterns of behavior, patterns of relationship? If they can change? What is going to be the engine of that change? What actually drives it? And I do think this film has something to say about that. I'm going to put a pin on it, because I think we'll come back to it. But my theme is this interplay between fate and choice, especially through the prism of a relationship. Hmm.

Banks  12:09

Wow. And that's a really powerful theme to the film plays, right, you know, one of the plays right into what I'm thinking of, for a lot of the film. For me, one of the most powerful themes, is just an explanation of coping. How do people cope with difficulty, and this film is just just takes your right into people's coping mechanisms, at least for me in a way that like, is a little too relatable to be comfortable. Oh, gosh, I’ve done these. 

Evan  12:42

Ooh, Ooh… That’s real.

Banks  12:43

That's really, like, you know, for Jim Carrey, I relate to his character, so much I relate to Joel, because he's just this, you know, resorts to, to the same patterns to cope with the things that are just difficult in life. And he himself is at odds with his own state of being boring and doesn't know what to do with it. And is oddly attracted to this woman who is the opposite of that. And so it's about you know, well, some people cope by creating patterns, some people cope by being wildly different. And, you know, trying to do things in different ways. And, you know, there's this theory out there that, you know, Clementine, Caitlin's his character is like, has like Borderline Personality Disorder, I don't really think that's a really you don't need to psychologize it like that. She's just a really awesome, I think strong character, but definitely is coping with life in a different way. And then you also meet through all these other characters in the side, just different ways of dealing with difficulty. I think coping is just a huge part of this movie.

Aaron  13:47

Mm hmm. I mean, hmm, I have a lot of things in my mind. Some themes that stick out to me is one that I'll talk about for now has to do with memory. I'm thinking about the power of memory, and even even the sort of mirrors residue of memory. Now, after these two people have found the procedure done, there's a way in which memory sort of like persists beyond all active attempts to erase it. There's something like core and deep, and that in sort of goes beyond the mechanical, neurological parts of memory, down into the level of identity. And I'm just I'm thinking about all the ways it's like we are the finger. We like the fingerprints of our experiences and memories are so deep in us. The idea of erasing them becomes ridiculous, even at the level of the science fiction we're given at the lacuna, doctor's office.

Evan  14:53

Right. And I think what's I think what's so interesting there is that they do succeed in erasing her From his mind, but it's but they don't. They can't tracer from his body. His body remembers. And there's something like deeper than his mind that remembers her.

Aaron  15:09


Banks  15:10

Truly. If I'm not mistaken “The Residue of Memory,” to quote you know, maestro Aaron Jones over here. Isn't “The Residue of Memory,” the title of your very first jazz fusion album?

Evan  15:28

I know it was his second one. Oh, that's right. I believe compromised second draft.

Banks  15:38

Oh, that's right. You might remember from an earlier episode, he quoted it. It was the subterranean network that fuses the different buns of the sandwich. Oh, that was the parasite episode. That was his first episode.

Evan  15:54

Yes, yes.

Aaron  15:55

Spicey call back, sir. Spicy indeed.

Evan  15:59

Banks is there a scene that leeches on to you?

Banks  16:05 

It speaks to the to0 close for comfort. For me, it's it had there's this scene it's fairly early in the film and epitomizes almost the thorn in the side of Joel and clementines relationship. And it's it they're sitting down. And they're eating Chinese food.

Aaron  16:32

Oh, no  

Banks  16:34

It is the most painful scene. It's and this is leechy to me in the sense that like, I kind of want to forget it. Because I really can't forget it.

Evan  16:45

And because I've lived it, right.

Banks  16:48

Yeah. Like, I've been like “Daaang, I've been there, man.” But like, but like, I think we've all been in relationships where we felt this sense of being suffocated by monotony, the sense of something that was at one time supposed to be celebratory, has instead become like a performance of, you know, all the reasons why the relationship is not working and it's just boring. And they're just sitting there eating Chinese food, commenting on how the food that they've been ordering every week, the same day, is the exact same, and having nothing to talk about. And the silence is just so palpable that it will it just makes you kind of want to, I don't know, attach some leeches to you to suck it out of you. Because …. somebody say something interesting. 

Aaron  17:43

Kind of want to run away screaming.  

Banks  17:44

For me it's the Chinese food eating scene. It's just, it's for me that's like, almost unwatchable. But like, in a powerful way, not like, bad but like, I have lived that

Evan  17:55

We cannot speak into something very real, right?

Aaron  17:58

Yeah. I'm really gonna jump in here. I'm, I'm thinking of like, what are the different kinds of things that relationships can survive, and one is the site horrific level of monotony that we're describing. But the other thing that for me, the can relationships survive the full voicing of the truth, the full voicing of the truth and the leakiest scene for me, that just, I just brings me into agony, I feel awful, as I'm watching it, and listening to it, is the scene at the end where they have both received the recorded tapes of them sort of naming the things they despise most about the other person. And then, Clementine walks into Jim Carrey's apartment as he's listening to the tape where he told the doctor everything he despises about her now. All these like nasty, ugly things he thinks about her. And she makes him keep the tape running while she is there. And the discomfort is just like rising and rising and rising until I feel it in my body as I'm sitting there watching the film. He's talking about how she just uses sex to like, make people like her. And she's this like, shallow, foolish person. And she's listening to it. And he's listening to himself say it and horrified. And for me, there's the kind of weird hopefulness at the end of the movie is where they decide they're going to try and be close again, not only with this kind of remembered level of monotony, but with the full, like, difficult truth spoken. Oh, that's leechy for me. Oh, took something out of me!

Evan  19:37

That is an amazing, amazing sequence. I think I'm torn--I have two scenes. I think they… I think they actually sandwich the one you're talking about. The first one and I want to highlight just the visual storytelling that's going on in both of these scenes. This film was written by Charlie Kaufman Who is an amazing screenwriter, but this is the place where I think the director and the director of photography directors, Michel Gondry, I think they really shine. Because the first thing I'm thinking about is the final memory he has with Clem before, his mind is completely wiped of her. And it's actually the first night that they ever spent together, or that they met. And they were on Montauk. It's they met on the beach at a party, and they connect. And basically, she convinces him to go into this house that's owned by someone else, but no one's currently living there. It's dark. He feels really uncomfortable because you could tell he's a rule follower. He's, he doesn't like to, you know, transgress rules. She's going upstairs with alcohol, saying, hey, come upstairs, spend the night with me. And he remembers that he did not actually spend the night with her that night. He actually left he got scared, and he left. But the way the film tells this is that you actually see them talking to each other. And he says to her or his memory of her, I wish I had stayed. I wish that night that I had stayed. And it's so powerful to look back on the very first interaction with this person. And you see the regret. But you also see this, sort of, change in perspective that's happened to him. But then, and this is the part that is leechy for me. He leaves in the memory. And as he's leaving, Gondry has the house literally collapsed, just as his memory of her is collapsing. And so it's this good. It's multi-layered, right that their relationship seemed to be almost doomed from the start. The house is crumbling in their first interaction. And, and yet, he's also where he is now in the storyline. He knows, oh, actually, I still love her. And she whispers in his ear and meet me in Montauk. And that's what sets the chain in motion to get to come back to the beginning of the film. So it's just such a multi Vaillant image. I think that's my leechy scene.

Aaron  22:05

Almost leechy for the artistry, as much as anything in the story.

Evan  22:09

It's unforgettable, for me.

Banks  22:13

The artist is not lacking--that's for sure.

Evan  22:16

It's stunning.

Aaron  22:17

Oh, yeah, consistent throughout the film. I mean, the film is a complete package where every knot has been tied. It feels like you modify it. Can I jump into leechy characters? Leechiest character, I have to talk about another kind of leechy scene that kind of fits into this. The groove I'm describing about the film containing all these kind of like perfect moments of symmetry. And I … so leechy character for me, who I hate, just deeply despise and hate is Patrick, Elijah Woods character. I freaking hate that guy. For like, part of me, like I'm addicted, addicted to these ideas of like, of authenticity and originality, and to see someone sort of like, he takes Jim Carrey's journal, Joel Barish. His journal and is sort of like trying to recreate with Clementine, all these moments that Joel Barish already had with her and I'm just feeling sick watching this happen. But then the ultimate moment is when they go to the the frozen lake, the frozen lake, where Joe Parrish and says and recalls and writes down in his journal, he says they're lying down next to each other on the ice. I could die right now. I'm just happy. I've never felt that before. I'm just exactly where I want to be. And then to watch the scene where freaking Patrick, just like stumbles and fumbles his way through that line, and it means nothing and Clementine doesn't care at all. Like, oh, I Oh, this is so gross. And I hate Patrick. Like he's he like he sucks so much life out of me. He's least number one for me in this movie, that's me.

Evan  24:05

He is definitely high up there. I also would on that kind of leechiness, Dr. Mierzwiak. Oh, Tom Wilkinson's, character also is leechy for me, but I'm actually not going to talk about them for a while much like, in Pan's Labyrinth when Vidal was so obviously, the villain so, so terrible. Yeah, I think I mean, Mierzwiak, and Patrick are obviously leechy. And they suck life out. Yes. But for me, the painful one who is instructive and who sticks with me is kind of like what banks was saying earlier. It's Joel. I think Jim Carrey's character is really on this viewing? He sticks with me and I think so many of his insecurities and his questions and his doubts of himself and his doubts of the relationship. Man those structures towards, you know, early on. It becomes ironic later, but early on when he's looking at Kate Winslet on the train and he says, “Why do I fall in love with every woman who gives me the time of day?” I mean, that's an extreme statement. And also like, I have been in places where that is a real thought. And that movie named it. And so, I think there's that and then just his, you could tell he's smart. He's really sharp. He has some creative elements like he, I think he draws and he writes, and yet he's so unable to vocalize what he feels. He's so inside. And, yeah, there's just resonances for me that his character sticks with me and embodies those hard parts of myself but also embodies, it's just kind of he goes through a hero's journey through his mind, through his memory, I think. And we'll talk, I think we'll talk more about this. But where he ends up makes me oddly hopeful, while also recognizing the pain and struggle it took to get there is leechy for me,

Aaron  26:11

Can we say Have we talked about this idea that? I mean, there's something leechy about Joe, but there's also something leechy about the process of like, delving into the underworld like this is Pan's Labyrinth? We've talked about this before. But yeah, like going into the depths like this, the descent into his memory is also a descent into opening up all these different kind of Pandora's boxes of repression inside him. Yes, like the moment of shame where he longs he like longs to be hugged by his mother, but she like, won't pay attention to him or he's caught masturbating. And he's like, so uncomfortable in his own skin. Like having those boxes opened. Oh, oh, this is leechy. Indeed,

Banks  26:54

You cannot watch this movie, and not imagine your own embarrassing moments being so exposed. Everyone watches this movie, and everyone just like, peeks into their own little box isn't the same or like, ooh, that's like, oh, “That’s what it would be for me!” There's something about that movie that,  does it like it is a journey into one's own embarrassments at times. 

Aaron  27:22

Makes me want to tell all my dirty secrets. But I'm not going to….

Banks  27:33

Haha, please don't… please….I mean, you know, if, if I'm honest, I will say, I think that Joel's character is also for me right there. But if, if no one's else gonna is going to talk about you know, Dr. Howard, is it “mirrors-wack?” Miers-wack?”

Evan  27:48


Banks  27:48

“Mierzwiak!” He, you know, there is one thing I would like to highlight about his leechiness, and yes, there's a huge li uncomfortable, hugely inappropriate, hugely leechy component with regard to him. You know, having an affair with a young woman and then allowing his own lab to then wipe her memory of that affair only to then rekindle it. That’s just that's just absurdly, it's so bad. But like, also very believable. But like in a terrible way. For me, one of the other things, it's very easy to miss, I think, but really, just for some reason sticks with me is this is his lab. This is his company, this is his lab, this is his company, and his company, has these policies that you actually get to hear about and the background of some of the scenes. Like you get to wait in the room with Joel Well, we learned that, Oh, no, you know, “I'm sorry, Miss so and so but we can't wipe your memory three times this month. That's just against policy.” Like they're going like, it's they make they have turned this method of memory wiping, into a deeply unhealthy pattern of coping, that is, and just are profiting off of it. There's something that like you are seeing these people in waiting rooms dealing with the death of a cat, dealing with all these things, just wiping them from memory, as well. That's just what you do. So you can move on. And now obviously, like “Welcome to the modern world,” we all have our own ways of doing it. But I think that's a part of the modern world but saps us as we are just only using avoidance as our coping. Like what happens if that's what it is, what if memory wiping becomes the only way that we cope with difficulty? Like that's one of the major questions that this film asks and the answer is not a pleasant one or one that is hopeful. In fact, it's is the reconnecting of memory with difficulties, and the radical acceptance of it that I think does it there. And I'm going to stop there because I'm getting into the positives and the “hirudo therapy” aspects. For me, I'm just gonna say the doctor there has some high leech levels that need to be, uh, need to be expressed.

Evan  30:18

I think that's really well put and I think just to build off it real quickly, I do think that it is the contrast between characters who basically just have their mind-wiped, and where they end up by the end of the film, they're all pretty much alone. Whereas the character that did go down the road of having his mind wiped, but then chose actually to  embrace memory, Joel and then also Clem, they end up in some kind of connection. And I do think the film is we should play around with this some more but I do think that something about facing memory going into it is actually the way to connection and the avoidance leaves you alone, perhaps.

Aaron  31:03

Yeah, anyway, can I, I would love to jump in here because I think there was something that this movie taught me something new about leakiness Oh, oh yeah. Next to the the act of remembering and Dr. Mierzwiak and all this, that the moment so what I'm what I learned about leechiness has to do with my physical experience in my body as I'm watching a film. And there was a moment where like, from the center of my body, kind of radiating toward my hands, I started to feel physically numb, like something weird was happening to me. And the moment that that happened was when Mary, Kirsten Dunst’s character, learns that her laundry was wiped at the moment where Dr. Mierzwiak’s wife arrives on the scene and sees them kissing inside and, and says, “You can have him, you've had him before.” And at that moment, like my whole body just goes, [Makes out-of-body-expierence sound]....This is really like taking something it's doing something to me.

Banks  32:13

Isn't it true that when a leech bites you, there is a numbing agent.

Evan  32:19

There is a numbing protein? Yes, that's right.

Aaron  32:22

Oh, guys, I tell you what, I think I like me to take a quick vacation though. This is getting like, a little intense. For me.

Evan  32:29

It's getting a little intense. Aaron, do you want to take this top beach? Do you want to beach? Are there any leeches on that beach?

Aaron  32:35

I wanna do the leech on the beach segment? Come on, let's do leave on the beach. On the beach. When I try and want to go on vacation on this film, where do I go? Actually go to one of the moments of like greatest dysfunction, which is this ridiculous relationship? In the movie between Joel's two friends, Carrie and Rob. Remember what I'm talking about? Yeah, like Carrie and Rob, who are like, there's something about the way that their relationship is just so obviously bad. Like they're throwing laundry at each other and like always sniping at each other. She tries to pick up a cooler and it just like falls over on her comedy montage. 

Evan  33:20

At the beach, at Montauk

Banks  33:21

At the beach!

Aaron  33:21

But a moment that gets me the most I just can't help but laugh is where Joe's over at their house and you just hear this relentless hammering. And Rob is just sitting at the table like making a birdhouse. Like, why? Why is this even here? Why is this happening? But uh, that's it this moment of the just deep absurdity. And we're where we're seeing actually like, what love looks at, like, in a way that's not all that inspiring or interesting. But for some reason that like it's uplifting and light-hearted to me, and I go on vacation in those moments.

Evan  33:59

I love that. My vacation is also related to Bob, who of course is played by David Cross, the immortal Tobias Fuque from Arrested Development, and perhaps a satire, perhaps unrelated, but in that show Arrested Development. There's a pill called a “Forgive me now.” Which I think perhaps is based on this movie. And that is a funny version of something very serious. That has happened in this movie. And I laugh at that…;

Aaron  34:27

that’s beachy, that’s beachy

Banks  34:31

Arrested Developemnt is talways a good beach to go to. It'll ride on Montauk anytime. Just not the Netflix seasons, don't do those.

Evan  34:40

Yeah, yeah. Wasted time. Well, that is our leech on a beach segment for this week. Here. Thank you for taking us to the beach.

Aaron  34:50

And to be clear leeches also their bodies are like segmented they are segmented worms. So the idea of segments is really nice for the pod. Thank you.

Banks  35:00

And we are now transported from the beach. So thank you for that.

Evan  35:05

We have built leach anatomy into the structure of our podcast. Speaking of which, I think it's time for some “hirudo therapy,” the medicinal purposes of leeches. Who would like to begin?

Banks  35:24

I'll begin with one here. So for me, I think that there is a hirudo therapy in this, you know, this, this one goes out to all the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy fans out there. But in DBT, there's this important idea called “radical acceptance.” Okay, which is the, you know, it's simply looking at difficult situations, and, and simply trying to see them as they are and accept reality for what it is. And so we can move forward. And there's this great moment, I think of radical acceptance throughout this movie, but one in particular. And that's when, after the fights after everything at the very end of the movie, you know, you know, Joel has just heard Clem’s, worst comments to him, and Clem has just heard Joel lay into her and these recorded videos, and then they stand in a hallway about, they could, you know, both ready just to end it with one another. And they just say, you know, we could try again. And guess what, this is probably gonna happen again. And that's when Joel, that's when Jim Carrey’s character, says, “Okay,” It’s this moment of incredible radical acceptance that I've never seen a better portrait of it. It's an acceptance of who they are, and acceptance of what their relationship could be the good and the bad together. And the acceptance of, “We could see where this goes”

Aaron  36:58

In most moments of acceptance, with that level of like, crystalline, very fresh sense of everything that's wrong, and tragic, and toxic and weird. Yeah, that's very radical.

Evan  37:11

I think that connects in a lot of ways to the therapy that I was thinking about. And it connects back to my theme of fate and choice. And there's so many patterns that repeat in this movie, and you see the dynamics of their relationship, keep repeating in the memories, and they keep repeating, because in some ways, Joel is fundamentally who he is. And Clem is fundamentally who she is. And you can't change those things. And yet, Joel has been on a journey in this film, he has gone into his memory, he's gone into happy memories, but really, it's the traumatic ones that he has to go to, to come out the other side as a different person. And the time works so funny in this movie, I think Banks you put it well, it's only one night, and yet he is a different person. That morning when he wakes up, although he doesn't know it totally, than he was when he went to sleep. And I think for me, what's therapeutic about that is this acknowledgment that the way forward, perhaps in a relationship, but perhaps just for self-acceptance, is actually through memory. It's through facing past things, especially past trauma. If the way forward for Ophelia was through fantasy in Pan's Labyrinth, I think this film offers us a painful, but ultimately, a restorative way forward through memory.

Aaron  38:45

Yeah, this is what yeah, this is this movie is hard for me. Yeah, I think that anyone who anyone who's had a lot of heartbreak, and I've been divorced, you know, watch you watch this film and watch the kinds of dysfunction and kinds of pain that people experience here like I can, I can dredge up a lot of hard material. But I think that one of the things that I find medicinal about the film is that it's I think that after you've, after you've been really hurt by love. There's this question of like, am I gonna open myself up to that again? Is it worth opening myself up to love again? And the message of this film is it like it's a high risk proposition to love. Because the things that you will learn the things that you will come to know involve pain. And I and I find myself both really chastened by this film like, “Hello, sir. Be cautious about love but But sir, you should, you should open your heart because there's something deep and real really meaningful about coming to know that the difficult risky thing called love.”

Evan  40:07

I think that raises a question for me. I want to know what you think. The film seems to say. “Yes, it's hard. Yes. All this pain has happened. Yes, there's risk. But yes, but okay. But try again” or “Say yes to love again.” And just speaking for myself it. It rang true. I felt like the film earned that optimism. But I don't know what do you guys think? Did it? Did it earn it? Is it too? I mean, because there's also a way you could argue like, this relationship was toxic, and probably bad for both of them. And is it good for them to keep trying on something that?

Aaron  40:57

The film seems like make a virtue out of continuing to try things that are destructive?

Evan  41:05

Yeah, I think you could read it that way.

Aaron  41:07

Yeah. Make a virtue out of dysfunction. Oooh, yeah. I don't know about that.

Banks  41:12

You could read it just as a cycle of codependency.

Evan  41:16


Aaron  41:18

I don't know what I think about that. That's not what I want to believe about the movie. But I think that the movie entirely leaves that door open, actually.

Evan  41:26

Yeah. Same.

Banks  41:29

I agree. Both with the sentiment of not wanting it to be that way. And also having a very hard time arguing against it. But I'm gonna fall and say it's not that's not. I'm just gonna go with my gut and say, I don't think that's what the movie is about. I think the movie is asking, in the end, it does earn, you know, as you're saying, a bit more optimism a bit more of the sense that the worst of us doesn't define the all of our future.

Aaron  42:03

What does that mean? I think that that immediately leads me to the burning question of if this movie is a movie that is that has this like this optimistic note to it. Like how many leeches am I supposed to give this movie? Oh?

Banks  42:21


Aaron  42:24

OOh Ah! I see how many leeches now? Does anybody have a sense at this point?

Banks  42:29

I did remind our viewers we do this on a scale of four. Right? One out of four leeches: four leeches being the, you know, the the “gold standard” of a leech movie. And “one” being not so leechy, but maybe a wee-bit? “Zero” being not leechy at all. What are you doing on the show? So.

Evan  42:49

So I'm at I'm at three leaning for but I'm going to go three? Oh, I want to save four for a couple that, well, we will get to that. I think I just want to hold it like I think parasites are solid for oh, there's a couple of others. In my book. Here's why I'm at three. Okay. I couldn't get this film out of my mind. We watched it a while back. I've been thinking about it. I've been wanting to write about it. I've been busy and haven't been able to write about and I've been frustrated that I haven't been able to write and think about it. And so it's just like, wormed its way into my brain. And so it is stuck with me. And I think it's stuck with me on this viewing. And I'll maybe I'll highlight the other leechy scene that I didn't talk about, which is after they agree at the very end, to try again, the film actually closes with this image of the two of them on the beach in Montauk with snow on the beach. And they're running and they're like playfully, hitting each other with snow. I believe it's from maybe the first time they hung out or some other memory. But it's this playful image in this very cold beach. And it's it's a haunting image on its own. But then Gondry repeats it two more times. This repetition, this repetition, almost like the cycle of this relationship will continue and continue? Oh, and I think in a way, the coldness of the image, the repetition of it. I think it tempers a little bit of the optimism that I feel in my bones. When they reconnect. I'm like, Oh, this is the best. This is it. I think that they end the director ends with that note of No, this is a cycle of cold playfulness, not a cycle of Cold Play, but in a cycle of cola. Playfulness, that maybe that's just what love is. Or maybe it's a more ambiguous thing that he wanted leave us with I don't know, but I can't stop thinking about it. I found this film so instructive about so many things. It's such a “three-leecher” for me. I yeah, I just love this film.

Aaron  45:11


Banks  45:12

Three leeches.

Aaron  45:14

Yeah, honestly, Banks. I think I need to hear from you. I'm not even like, I'm not even sure. You got to help me out, convinced me.

Banks  45:21

It's I think it's three. For me, I'm going to agree with Evan. And I think that its three for me, like, if I were to say, like, find to give it like, in terms of just how much I like it. I probably give this a “four out of four” stars. But we're talking leeches here.

Evan  45:39

Leeches not stars.

Banks  45:41

Just the, you know, for me, the film has so many incredible qualities, like three leeches is a high bar and it does, it sticks. It's difficult. It's it takes something out of you. I do not want to watch this movie sometime again in the near future. But I desperately.... there's a part of me that never wants it to let go either. Like, yes, it's for me like that need like, okay, that we're in leech territory here. But in the end, you know, for me, when I think of a truly [leech movie], there's almost a fear that needs to be there. There needs to be that. Like, there's a space that enters. That is deeper, that's darker, that is more powerful, maybe even brighter, I don't know, but it's just more visceral.

Evan  46:35

I mean, this is the most visceral podcast, it is. You tremble, you tremble before and I feel like….

Banks  46:44

...and I might be shaking a little bit, but ain't trembling yet. So, three leeches for me.

Aaron  46:49

Hmm. This movie came out in 2004. I was in high school. I think definitely at the time, I would have seen it as a one or two. I thought it was like, artsy and cool. Kind of great. But it wasn't something that likes stuck close to me. You know, at that time, I think this movie is like a heat-seeking missile, except that it is like the heat that it seeks is heartbreak. And like it sniffs out the heartbreak and attaches there. Wow. And I think that would pull me up to a three now. Definitely not for me. But that sense of it, like just finding my heartbreak and leeching on right there. Ooh, for me three. Yeah, I'll give it three for that.

Banks  47:43

Is this the first time we've all agreed?

Evan  47:45

I think so. Which is great. I think. I think aside from ratings, I think something I just feel like we have to talk about this movie or I want to name is this would be a somehow a romantic comedy, drama, a sci-fi, a horror movie, like there are horror elements in the some of those memories. It's almost like a Freudian meditation on childhood, like, and it's visually stunning. I mean, I think this is where thanks to your point, like it is a four-star in terms of the quality of filmmaking and writing and performances. I mean, we have really talked about the performances, we talked about Kate Winslet who is like,

Banks  48:23

She's the star. And this is yeah, she puts everyone else to shame in this movie, and everyone else is brilliant.

Evan  48:33

She's like, literally the figment of Jim Carey's imagination in the movie, and yet unforgettable she's unforgettable.

Aaron  48:40

The moment immediately comes to mind is where we're, uh, Jim Carrey is like being a baby toddler version of himself like under a table. And she is being his like mom's friend who, who's like also herself and is like, what is this dress I'm wearing? And then in order to like bring him back from his babyish waist tries to like show him her underwear. This is so strange.

Banks  49:10

It's so funny because like in the scene before it's like this very like sensual like thing and like, they're they like, that's where like, you like see like the underwear in there. It's like, very sexualized and very, like, you know, intimate and then it's here. It's like the least sexual scene ever, and it's such hilarious change. It’s like, Oh, we're gonna flash a three-year-old. Let's just do that. It's brilliant. So weird.

Evan  49:37

So weird. Well, on that note, it's been another episode of the leech podcast. Thanks, everyone for tuning in. This was about the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. There are many more episodes to come in this season. And we hope you will join us for all of them. Again, if you would like to contact us You can find us on At leech podcast on Twitter and the leech podcast on Instagram. We would love to hear from you, including leechy novels that you have in mind for a book club.


  • Hosted by Evan Cate, Banks Clark, and Aaron Jones
  • Editing by Evan Cate
  • Graphic design by Banks Clark
  • Original music by Justin Klump of Podcast Sound and Music
  • Production help by Lisa Gray of Sound Mind Productions
  • Equipment help from Topher Thomas
... Show more


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