Two films that couldn’t be more different.

It looks to be a movie weekend. I feel like crap, so I hurried through the necessary errands this morning and came home with some of that throat-numbing spray and some extra Sprite. On today’s (and last night’s) docket: the recent release Children of Men and, straight from Netflix, Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.

Children of Men
It wasn’t what I expected.

Many many people had extolled the virtues of this film. Others seemed to be deeply impressed by it, in some way. Described as a thoughtful sort of movie, when the opportunity arose to check it out, I was fairly excited to do so.

There were many moments when I flinched, watching it. It’s brutal as hell and pulls no punches. As a long-time fan of both 24 and er (both shows that tend a bit towards the gore-as-emotional-hammer button), the stark and violent post-apocalyptic world didn’t particularly rock me as it perhaps should have.

However, that lent more time to enjoy the multi-layered cultural references. Michael Caine’s odd turn as a Jerry Garcia version of George Carlin was fantastic. The police ranged from jack-booted thugs to easily-distracted shoot-em-up soldiers. The smokestack and flying pig both delighted and amused me–Orwell and Pink Floyd are particularly dear. The girl amid the livestock rang bells. The religious protestors with their identical slickers. The ubiquitous television screens with their screaming impactful sans serif font. The grit, the grey, the WW2 symbolism. Big brother.

The eerie feel of a world without children.

But when my friends came over the other day, after going to see it in the afternoon, they were wearing blank, shocked expressions. They were all sort of flattened by the experience. This kind of thing I can understand–some movies drawn you in so deep… they rake you over the coals and leave you feeling gutted and empty. Wrung out like a wet rag. But in a good way.

That was what I expected. Not so much. Perhaps some things can be a bit tempered by anticipation.

Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirstin Dunst, Elijah Wood (etc.). When Jim Carrey isn’t acting the fool, I really like him as an actor. Even his more subtle comedic work is pretty good (I’m thinking of Bruce Almighty here).

This is a pretty perfect anti-Valentines-Day movie, at least in precept. And fairly well executed. The mixed-up chronology would be unremarkable, were it not for the overlapping sequences. Characters in the same set, at the same time, but not really from the same time. In a movie that is about memory and about editing your own recollection, the spliced-together crossing-over was interesting. The interlacing was small, almost unnoticeable in the beginning and totally distinct in the end.

The weird childhood memory section with Joel all hobbitized was really rather bizarre though. The snowy beach was nice, the rain indoors. But Kirstin Dunst? I think she likes to take roles where she gets to dance around in her panties. That’s just a little suspicion I have.

Of course, watching this is in part designed to help facilitate the development of a short story–both focus on how mechanical choices will change our lives. I am always curious how technology will, in expected or unexpected ways, change things about us. Slowly, at first, just in little pieces. But the pieces add up, and eventually they’re big huge swaths of time, all changed and different.

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