In the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, there is a scene where Joel has a memory of himself with a kid who is a bully.

Until now, Joel has been able to change and relive his memory as he chooses to change it. He is able to change his memories with Clementine by running away with her from the memory itself.

Why is it that in the case of Joel's memory with Freddy, he is not able to relive it differently? Why does Joel still get beaten by Freddy even though Joel still knows it's a memory?

2 Answers 2


The moments you are describing take place while Joel is having his memories of Clementine erased.

While he is "under" for the procedure, Joel realizes he doesn't want the memories of Clementine erased -- so the "running away" is not about changing the memories; it is Joel's attempt to preserve some recollection of Clementine by moving from memories that are being erased to as-yet unerased memories.

Presumably, while he is "under" for the erasure procedure and his subconscious is explored by the procedure, he relives not just Clementine memories but other random memories, such as the incident with Freddy. Joel doesn't "run" from that Freddy memory because it is not one of the memories being erased.


It has been quite a while since I've seen the movie so I might be off base but...

As I recall Joel doesn't have Matrix like powers over his dreams. The only one he can really interact with fully is Clementine. Joel also expresses that he still retains some of the mindset of a child/the past when he is hiding with Clementine in the kitchen scene. Both of these combined would explain why he "let" the bully embarrass/beat him up. Joel couldn't really control the bully's actions, and he still had the same fear/mindset when he was beat up before.

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