This movie has been on my mind a lot recently. First, my friend Aaron cited it as one of the 10 Best Pop Culture Love Stories of the Last Ten Years. Then I mentioned it in correlation with WALL*E, noting that they both feature the theme of love triumphing over technology.
While the trailer is fantastic in its own right, doing a wonderful job of showing the zany fun the film will have with its concept, I like the simplicity of this picture.
Once you've seen the movie (or at least understand the plot), you can spot a number of elements represented in this poster. I'll start with the obvious:
The poster is mimicking a thought bubble, the image of Joel and Clementine on the ice floating above Joel like a memory, just out of reach. The white color of the ice makes the imagery crystal clear. Although it is a great moment in the film, it was definitely chosen for how it would look on the poster, because, if you recall, this actually happens after they meet for the second time, post-memory erasure.
Even the white credits on the right side fit with the thought bubble pattern, resembling the smaller bubbles that lead to the big picture.
While many instances of the thought bubble feature the character "looking" at his/her thought (as in the cartoon image above), there's a longing in Joel's eyes that makes you immediately empathize with him. This isn't a fantasy, some scenario that Joel wishes would come true. It's an actual memory. And it's not about Joel living in the past, wanting the memory to become reality once again. He simply wants to hold onto the memory, to keep it in his brain, as a part of his life and who he is. He's desperate.
But memory is a fragile thing (even if you aren't having it erased), and the image depicts that with the multi-fissured crack in the ice. In the movie, the revelation of the cracked ice is played as a joke. Joel is nervous about being on the frozen lake. Clementine informs him that it's perfectly safe. And it cuts to an aerial shot. It's a pretty good laugh.
On the poster, however, it shows the delicate nature of memory. At any second, the ice could shatter, the memory falling into the water below, never to be seen again.
We hope more than anything that this doesn't happen, and that's why we watch the movie: to find out.