Academy Award-winning actress Kate Winslet has been in the news recently for turning up in the completely un-Oscar worthy Divergent–most notably for having performed her own stunts in the film while pregnant. But given that as of March 19th, 2014, the world has had a full ten years to soak in Winslet’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kate couldn’t help but use that face time with the press to reflect on what was easily the most transformative role of her career.
As the English beauty told the Huffington Post, “I think because I am British, there’s this sort of very strange metaphorical red carpet that is rolled out for us… People kind of think that we speak a foreign language and that we’re much more intelligent than the rest of the human race.” Well, she’s right about that—we in America can’t trust so much as a toothbrush commercial without an authoritative English-accented voiceover. But she continues: “That isn’t me at all. I think Eternal Sunshine smashed through any preconceived notions that people may have had about who I actually am.”
Kate also acknowledges that the woman who played stuffy Rose in Titanic probably never would have been cast as a Nazi death camp guard in The Reader had she not demonstrated her range in Sunshine. But Winslet was hardly the only one reinvigorated by the film. For one, there was a time when you went to Jim Carrey movies with the reasonable expectation that he’d be literally talking out his ass; Spotless Mind made a real Bill Murray out of him, another comedic actor who can be just as outstanding in a dramatic role.
Second, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman went from doing weird-for-weirdness’-sake stuff Like Being John Malkovich to weird, smart, and heartfelt stuff; Sunshine freed him up to do the hilarious and heart-wrenching Synecdoche, NY, which might now stand as Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s most singularly touching epitaph. As per director Michel Gondry—remember all those music videos we could count on to blow our minds over the course of three minutes? Turns out Gondry can do the same to the umpteenth power with a feature length.
But Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind changed more than just the cast and crew. It’s hard to believe that it took roughly 100 years of cinema to produce something so good, and that in the decade since, it still has yet to be topped (though Spike Jonze’s Her, which would have been inconceivable without Sunshine, might come close). But more than just what might be done with the silver screen, think of the way the movie’s changed us; how a woman with blue hair makes us think wild thoughts, how you know a person who gushes over the film is clearly worth your time. Just like Spotless Mind, we’re all ten years older, too. There are likely a lot of things we’d prefer to forget, particularly in the relationship department—but in our heart of hearts, we know there are things worth holding onto, if only just the memories. Barring death, we’re going to keep aging, and youthful romances will keep receding further into the past. No, we can’t go back and relive the best parts; revisiting the tale of Clementine and Joel, however, is not so sorry a substitute.