Just because Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind isn't a horror movie, that doesn't mean it isn't scary. Joel is forced to deal with some difficult things inside of his own mind, but it's not just in his memories that Joel is afraid. He's also afraid when he meets Clem again; he's afraid to make eye contact, afraid to start a relationship, and just as afraid to give up the past. But that's kind of the point, really: relationships are scary. Life is scary. None of it is easy. But will running away and erasing everything painful make it any better?
Questions About Fear
Does Clementine help Joel overcome his personal fears, or is she just a crutch that he can rely on to pull him along when he's too afraid to do something?
Joel's procedure forces him to confront things he is afraid of. Do you think this is a healthy form of therapy, or are these painful memories doing more bad than good?
We never get a clear look into Clem's mind, but what do you think she is afraid of? Do you think that Joel might be braver than Clem when it comes to certain things?
Chew on This
If Joel weren't so afraid, he never would have had the Lacuna procedure done. Fear makes him an escapist.
Joel's fears of intimacy are only seen post-procedure and are actually a product of the emotional trauma he experienced from losing Clem. Even though he can't remember it, the emotional core of the memory still exists.