How does Joel know he needs to meet Clementine at Montauk in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Clementine tells Joel in one of his memories that he should meet her at Montauk. This is Joel's memory. Hence he's telling himself to meet Clementine at Montauk. The next day, because of the subliminal information in his head, he meets her on the train to Montauk. How does Joel know that Clementine is going to be on the train? He's never met her there before. How does he remember something he's not yet done?

Edit: This question assumes that Clementine was always going to be there at Montauk. She has had her memory erased a week earlier. The question is how does Joel know this information about Montauk.

  • @Erik, the point of view in that question is errored. Clementine is living her life after her memory erase. The question is not how she knows she needs to be in Montauk. It's about how Joel knows that information. His going to Montauk is the day right after his memory erase. The entire movie is Joel's point of view and his memories. This question can't be about how Clementine knows about Montauk.
    – John
    Feb 11, 2016 at 11:49
  • 1
    In order for two people to meet they both have to go to the same location at the same time. The movie is about their relationship so IMO questions about either one's thoughts/motives are fair game. Plus not all the movie is from Joel's point of view.
    – Erik
    Feb 11, 2016 at 15:33
  • Sure, here Joel goes to the place where Clementine is. All else is speculation.
    – John
    Feb 11, 2016 at 15:35

1 Answer 1


While it's not immediately clear on a first viewing, the pre-credits scene occurs chronologically after the majority of the scenes in the movie; Joel and Clem have already had their breakup, and have both erased each other from their own (conscious) memories. Note that Clementine's hairstyle is the same in the pre-credits scene as it is at the end of the movie: a blue color that's grown out substantially.

So the simplest answer is that their first meeting, when Joel's friends invite him to a beach party and Clementine is there, is in Montauk. If you accept this as true, then it makes sense that this location would have a special subconscious significance for both of them, and that they would be drawn to the same beach even after having erased their memories. However, one does have to accept Joel's memory as accurate for this to work; we only ever see their "first" meeting as part of Joel's memory, rather than in "real life".

However, there's another possible interpretation (which is why I put "first" in quotes above.) The final shot of the movie is a repeated shot of Joel and Clem playing in the snow at Montauk. Some people have interpreted this scene to mean that Joel and Clem have actually met multiple times before, and have erased each other from their memories more than just the one time we see in the movie. Viewed from this perspective, the ending is quite fatalistic: it seems to imply that people are trapped in destructive patterns in their lives, and that there's not a way to escape them. (To be fair, Joel says he's "OK" with that in the last spoken line of the movie.) If you buy this interpretation, then they have met in Montauk multiple times before the events of the movie, and so their subconscious draws them there even if they don't know why.


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