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The awesome relationship movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) ends with a scene in which the two main characters are tempted to get back together but are not sure. The woman points out that they both know they will most likely just end up breaking up again. The man responds by saying "Okay" and then the woman also says "Okay."

Are they saying they are okay with getting back together despite the probable outcome? Or are they saying they are okay with not getting back together despite their mutual attraction?

12 Answers 12

29

The scene goes like this:

Joel: I can't see anything that I don't like about you.
Clementine: But you will! But you will. You know, you will think of things. And I'll get bored with you and feel trapped because that's what happens with me.
Joel: Okay.
Clementine: [pauses] Okay.

Clementine is warning him that she will eventually feel bored with him, and things will go wrong all over again. Joel is saying "Okay" to all that. He wants the chance to make sweet memories with her again. He realized how important they were to him when he almost lost them. Despite the eventual heart break, those moments were worth all the anguish.

  • 1
    Actually, he lost those memories and thus couldn't realize how important they were to him. – Tin Man Sep 6 '16 at 20:26
  • @TinMan While he had large parts of his memory erased, he also fought the process and it may not have completely worked. Moreover, they have external evidence of the relationship provided by the disgruntled secretary. – matt_black Oct 3 '16 at 10:35
  • @matt_black The subconscious thoughts weren't erased, that's true. (And that's why "meet me in Montauk" worked.) Still, Joel had no conscious knowledge of the memories and the ones the secretary brought up were purely negative, so Joel couldn't realize how much he missed the good memories. – Tin Man Oct 4 '16 at 6:27
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Being the optimist I am, I choose a more upbeat ending for the film. It all has to do with the fact, that they both hear the tapes that were recorded of themselves when going to get the initial treatment done. When Clementine comes to Joel's apartment at the very end, listening to the tapes he comes to a realization. That in retrospect, the relationship he had with Clem was really one of the most important things in his life, and despite the fact that he saw flaws in her, he is willing to overlook them indefinitely to make a happy life with Clem. The fact that you can listen to a tape of a person listing the other person's absolute worst flaws and still want to be in a relationship says it all to me. The ending of the film really comes together for me in a particularly beautiful and touching scene during Joel's "treatment" dream, when he is reliving the 2nd time he saw Clementine at Barnes and Noble after he met her at the beach party.

It would be different.... If we could just have another go around
Remember me.... Try your best.... Maybe we can

The experience of having the procedure down allowed Joel to view his relationship in retrospect and realize that what he had was worth the flaws because of all of the beautiful times they had. I think the moral just goes to show that sometimes we don't realize how important things are until they are gone. Joel does come to this realization and thankfully is given a second chance to be with Clem, so that he wont make these mistakes again. It's about redemption... redemption of the soul.

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The "Okay" is Joel saying, "I don't care if it falls apart again. It doesn't matter because I love you and every moment we have is worth it".

If it works or not is irrelevant to the screen and to the overall point.

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Joel and Clem seem to get back together at the end, and after that it shows a candid scene of them looping over and over until the final fade to black. The writer intentionally left the movie ambiguous in the first place, so there is no ending set in stone, but I've always thought that, although they rekindle their relationship, they do eventually break up because of their flaws. I don't actually agree with whole "they go back to Lacuna" part, because Mary's discovery and leaving with the documents implies that Lacuna will be hurt by all of their patients' discoveries, which may evoke a decidedly negative reaction as with her. (Of course, I could be wrong, but that's just my view.) The looping scene, in my opinion, symbolizes that they will break up, but also that they will get back together. I've always related this to those on-and-off couples. Maybe somewhere down the line, their flaws will becomes less magnified and a more concrete relationship will abound. Or maybe they are doomed to keep going back to each other, possibly out of true love. They are humans, and being humans, they are prone to repeating something that initially gave them pleasure, regardless of the negative note it will end on. While Joel has the memory erasing process done, he realizes that the good times he had with Clem outdid their breakup; "It's better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." And who's to say that some time couldn't have occupied the gaps between the loops? Maybe they saw different people to help gain new experiences, and were repeatedly drawn to each other afterwards. They didn't seem that old in the movie, so maybe somewhere down the line, when they've completely matured, they might decide to settle down. Orrrr, maybe it symbolizes that memory lives on, longer than the physical experience, and that candid scene was just an enduring addition to his experiences as they moved on from each other. There's so many different ways one can interpret the ending. :D

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This is all up to the interpretation of the viewer (as all films based on Charlie Kaufman's scripts are). My take on it is that they both accept that they have flaws and there are going to be hardships, perhaps a break-up, yet they still want to have a relationship.

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I think what a lot of people fail to remember is Clementine had the procedure done first, and I wish we could have seen how she cherished the same memories, which we don't have to, Simply because even though the movie is mostly through Joel's memories, he In fact is Clementine while the erasing is in progress, he knows her well enough to know how she would respond to him trying to run from erasing her from him. He knows that she wouldn't want him to forget her either, and it's abundantly clear that Clementine, Post Lacuna Procedure knows that something isn't right and something is missing, shes falling to pieces without Joel. Ultimately, Joel is in fact, despite the negatives, who her soul is searching for.

  • I thought a big part of her falling to pieces was triggered by the way she was manipulated by the Elijah Wood character. He was methodically staging the same events that led her to fall in love with Joel, and subsequently she was disoriented because she had been through all those events before. – Shiz Z. Sep 15 '16 at 20:58
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I really like Max's answer, but I think it failed to answer the question. Rather, I think the wrong question was asked. The final scene of the movie isn't in the hallway, it's of the two of them running on the snowy beach. If you remember, it jump cuts and replays, signifying them re-creating the memory, obviously. But then it does it AGAIN, right before the credits roll. The obvious answer to me is that their is another erasure to follow the relationship begun in the hall, or, that we actually watched the 2nd go around, their true first meeting never being shown. (We do never see Naomi, and Joel mentions something is odd about their relationship in the beach house) However, I think the 1st explanation is more feasible; that they are two weak souls, dying to be together, but incapable of not screwing things up. Had it not been for that second jump cut, I would be 100% in Max's corner. But to anyone that didn't think about that, I urge you to watch it again. It seriously gave me chills. Has anyone else thought this? I just watched it and am desperately looking for some opinions

  • I'm not sure this really answers the question... – DForck42 Sep 27 '12 at 20:52
  • @DForck42 Well, He does, but it ask another question. – Zhen Sep 29 '12 at 11:29
  • That dark ending was actually part of the original, very different script (which you can find online easily). The ending in the final script is meant to be open to interpretation. – Tin Man Sep 6 '16 at 20:32
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I think toryan has it correct in the last paragraph. He hasn't woken up yet because he fighting to not forget her. He has what is known as dissociative disorder. Specifically, derealization/depersonalization disorder. If he is awake, he talking to himself and imagining her presence because he fought not to forget her. Therefore, when he woke up, he actually did have damage to his behavioral part of his brain, due to the fact he wouldn't allow himself to be able to forget. The treatment was therefore not successful, and the by-product left over is the derealuzation/personalization of the dissociative disorder. Remember when he was looking at himself, saying how it was strange to look at himself? He was astroprojecting from that moment on throughout the film. He didn't want to forget her and wanted her to remember him that bad. He suffered a break from reality and didn't come back unscathed. And the tech wasn't giving up until all memories of her were erased. Moral of the story: Don't manipulate mother nature. Love takes time to bloom. Whether it wilts away and passes on is initially up to the person. There is no treatment or computer that can mends a broken heart. When the mind is affected, the complexities begin. That's the end of the film, Joel's problems were really beginning for him. He thought they were together. When he saw her at the bookstore kissing another man, that was the last time he actually saw her. Any ideas or thoughts on this movie appreciated.

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To me, the message of the film is that we are destined to have people in our lives that make us experience human nature. In this universe in the movie where you have the ability to simply erase someone from your memory, a play on the desires of many a heartbroken lover in reality, this erasure doesn't actually do anyone any good. There are just some people you will always meet, because they deliver a lesson to you that no one else can. So I don't think the question is whether or not they end up together or break up, I think the question is: if you had a chance to erase someone, would you do it? I think the goal of the writer is to make you think twice about your answer. For the record, though, I agree it's very clear that Joel and Clem have been through multiple erasures. The movie is shown to have a cyclical element; "Meet me in Montauk."

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The real significant point in them running down the beach is that it keeps looping over. I think this demonstrates that the erasing of the minds wasn't a first time event (as much as I can gather from the movie it atleast has happened once) - Joel and clem are destined to be in this love cycle which is forever being created and destroyed over and over again . I've only watched the film once but I'm pretty sure the marker of these parallel love cycles is in the colour of her hair. The same scenes from the start of the film don't match the erasing scene where by her hair is different colour to the initial viewing. This could mean that the erasing scene is not specifically erasing the memory we witness but one of the memories of a previous cycle.

The scene in the car when they get the tapes - this scene has happened before but due to them being "them" maybe this car scene happens everytime they start a relationship and the tapes they listen to are of a previous time they erased their minds and not the actual one we see in the movie.

Another point that suggested that they have erased their minds more than once is the doctors reaction when joel comes in for the first time.Seemed to me that there was some familiarity there like the doctor knew what was coming.

I'd like thoughts on this bizarre take but the other conclusion I have is that he never really wakes up and the final scenes of everything involving Joel is still being played out in his mind.

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But think about this : certain memories from his childhood seemed to have been erased, when the doctor found him and Clementine "hiding" he would yank him out and the memory seemed to get old or disappear. For example, when Joel and Clementine are talking on the train which would be the second time they meet, she says her name and tells him not to make jokes. He says he doesn't know any jokes about her name for which she says really? Not even the song "Oh my darlin Oh my darlin..." But the old Joel did know that song, his mother sang it to him when he was in the bath. Basically what I'm trying to say is maybe he's not the same person anymore. He's changed not having those childhood experiences. Maybe their relationship will work after all because technically he thinks different and is ultimately a different person.

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They do seem to be in an endless loop at the end, but the song change your heart, everyone has to learn sometime is significant. That sort of implies that they can change.

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