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Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
            Identity Related Questions
            Story Related Questions
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Additional Assignments

Other Sections:
      Links to the Internet
      CCSS Anchor Standards
      Selected Awards & Cast

Go to the Learning Guide for this film.

Additional Discussion Questions

Additional Identity Related Questions:

5.  If someone has plastic surgery, moves to a new town, and assumes a new name, what effect would this have on their sense of self, their personal identity? Support your conclusion. Suggested Response: Answers will vary. A strong discussion will include the following idea: a new face, a new town and a new name might or might not be effective in helping a person change his or her behavior but the person would be the same self, underneath. His or her personal identity would not have changed.

6.  Human memory is reshaped to some extent by what the person wants to remember. How does this impact the view that memory is important to the sense of self, i.e., to a person's identity? Suggested Response: There is no one answer. It is obvious that the role of memory in determining the sense of self is important, that there are other factors which a person brings to the recolleciton of those memories that modifies them and that these pre-existing filters are also important to the sense of self.

7.  Assume that before you dated a person, you could listen to a recording that described how you would feel about that person after being in a long-term relationship with him or her. Would you listen to the tape? Suggested Response: There is no one answer. A point to be raised in a strong discussion is that the process of discovering what the relationship will be like builds skills in assessing relationships and that this would be missing if the tape was used. (This assumes that the tape is not available in all cases.)

8.  Joel changed his mind about the procedure while his memory was being erased. Suppose a former client of Lacuna demanded to know whether his or her memory had been erased and what had been erased. Should this insruction be obeyed? Suggested Response: Answers will vary. A good response will include the concept that the instruction to erase was made when the client was fully informed about the relationship and the procedure. The second instruction is not as fully informed because the painful memories had been erased. But then again, the second instruction may be the result of something not realized by the person when they gave the first instruction, as it was with Joel. Another important concept is that our difficulties in coming up with a good solution is a warning that perhaps it's not a good idea to interfer with life by erasing painful memories. But then again, a proponent of memory erasure would point to all the depressed and obsessed people who would be helped by this procedure. The idea that no doubt anyone performing this procedure would have had the patient sign away the right to recover the memories, begs the question.

9.  Should Joel's friend Rob have showed Joel the card revealing that Clementine had Joel erased from her memory? Explain your reasoning. Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer. A good response should note that Clementine had the right to separate herself from Joel, but did she have the right to do it in this way? Joel has rights, too. Do these rights extend to knowing why Clementine would not respond to him? Reasonable minds would differ on that.

10.  Under what circumstances might you be willing to have memories of a failed romantic relationship erased? What about a robbery? Suggested Response: This is a personal question and all responses are acceptable. Good responses will reflect a consideration of the issues with memory erasure described in preceding responses.

Additional Story Related Questions:

11.  Each of the employees of Lacuna violate basic ethical principles. What are the filmmakers trying to tell us through this element of the story? Suggested Response: This type of interference with the natural order of things requires extremely strict codes of ethics and enforcement of those standards, or else some people will take advantage of the situation. Thus, for example, doctors are held to strict standards of conduct when prescribing mind-altering drugs.

12.  What problems in the basic character of Joel and Clementine can you see? Suggested Response: Answers will vary but should be backed up by direct reference to scenes or dialogue. Fundamentally, students will note that both characters are depressed and that Joel is shy while Clementine is outgoing. Clementine had a drinking problem. Neither character showed the ability to compromise and work to resolve their differences, until the end of the film.

13.  Identify the protagonist and the antagonist in this story. Defend your position. Suggested Response: There are many possible views. Here are some examples: (1) The protagonist is the loving relationship between Joel and Clementine. The antagonist is the problems with the relationshp. At the end of the story we don't know which will prevail, but Joel and Clementine have decided to give it another try. (2) Another view is that Dr. Mierzwiak is the antagonist, with the relationship between Joel and Clementine being the protagonist. (3) A third possibility is that the protagonist is a person's identity, which requires that they have a memory of their past experiences, and the desire to be rid of painful memories is the antagonist.

14.  What is the theme of the story? Suggested Response: Answers will vary. One way to say it is that people come together through chance but that they find love through affection and acceptance. The acceptance part can sometimes take hard work.

See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

Discussion questions 1, 2 & 5 — 9 were adapted from Philosophical Films.

Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions


1.   What are the advantages and disadvantages of having memories of a failed relationship? Suggested Response: Answers will vary. A good discussion will include the idea that a person who has a bad relationship can learn the warning signs and how to correct for the problems they reveal. A person remembering bad relationships in the past can also see potential problems earlier in other relationships and end them before they get serious, time is wasted, and the pain of the break-up becomes severe.

See also Discussion Questions #s 3, 10 & 14.

Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)
(TeachWithMovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner"
and  uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical


(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)

1.  A memory erasure, just like a John Doe letter, would be an abrupt and painful way to end a relationship. Are there better ways? Suggested Response: It all depends on the situation. Usually, a face-to-face conversation is better. But it's always painful when one person ends a relationship.

See also Discussion Questions #s 3, 10 & 14.

Additional Assignments

4.  Write an opinion essay on the film's ending in which you discuss how well the dialogue and the final images leave the viewers with a feeling of hope for these two characters and thus for others who may be struggling with painful memories.

5.  Write an ending of the story that occurs after the last night shown in the movie when Joel and Clementine decide to try again. Will they stay together and, if so, for how long? What will happen as they try to avoid the same problems that destroyed their relationship the first time.

6.  [Distribute to students and have them read the portions of the Shooting Script and the Published Screenplay from the time that Dr. Mierzwiak's wife discovers him embracing Mary to the end of the story. In the shooting script this is from page 107 to the end. In the published screenplay, this section starts with the instruction reading "Stan sits in the van and smokes a cigarette." and continues to the end.] Compare the way in which theme is disclosed in the shooting script and the screenplay.

See also Additional Assignments for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

Links to the Internet

Common Core State Standards that can be Served by this Learning Guide
(Anchor Standards only)

Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: "Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.") CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.

Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.

Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.

Selected Awards, Cast and Director

Selected Awards: 2004 Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay 2004 Academy Awards Nominations: Best Actress (Winslet)

Featured Actors: Jim Carrey as Joel Barish; Kate Winslet as Clementine Kruczynski; Elijah Wood as Patrick; Kirsten Dunst as Mary; Tom Wilkinson as Dr. Mierzwiak.

Director: Michel Gondry


Websites which may be linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine.

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