This is a timeline I created of the events in the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. For those unfamiliar with the film, the main character (Joel)–in the wake of a nasty breakup–decides to have all memories of his former girlfriend (Clementine) erased from his mind through a sci-fi-esque company called Lacuna. Joel becomes aware of the erasing procedure as it happens and realizes he does not want it done after all, but can’t stop it. The film itself is presented out of chronological order, partially because it unfolds through Joel’s perspective of the procedure, which erases the most recent memory first and goes backwards. The audience is tasked with piecing the actual chronology together themselves. With that in mind, I attempted to graphically represent these events in a chronological timeline.
The left, white column (“Reality”) contains events that actually happened in Joel’s past, with the top events happening first and the bottom last. Near the bottom of the chart, the red timeline loops back towards the top to signify the reverse-chronological erasure of memories. The light gray “Joel’s Mind” and dark gray “Lacuna Erasers” columns present Joel’s thoughts as each memory is erased, as well as what happens in his apartment with the employees who are erasing them. These two gray columns go from the earliest events on the bottom to the latest events on the top. Eventually, the timeline splits as Joel attempts to jump around in his memories and add Clementine to memories from his childhood while the Lacuna employees “chase” Joel and erase those memories as well. The order for these splits is denoted by the numbers 1, 2, and 3 (dotted lines mean Joel “jumps in time” within his memories).
Colors were intended to be from Joel’s perspective. The “Reality” column is white signifying that it is the events as they actually happened. “Joel’s Mind” is gray partly because he is asleep as they play out (gray signifying the haze of dreaming) as well as the blurring of actual events with his dreaming mind. The “Lacuna Erasers” column is dark gray because Joel cannot interact with them at all since he is asleep. Clementine’s hair color changes throughout the film, helping the audience piece together the events chronologically. Accordingly, the colors in the boxes along the timeline represent the color of Clementine’s hair in the scene. If she is not in the scene, the box is gray (also implying that Joel’s life is colorless without her).
A high-resolution version is available upon request.