“I’m Thinking Of Ending Things”- Movie Review
Charlie Kaufman is just my kind of weird. Funny enough, I didn’t realize I was a fan of his until I looked back at his filmography and saw that he wrote a handful of films that I like- Being John Malkovich (1999), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), and Anomalisa (2015), just to name a few. His stories are rife with oddities, yet their strangeness never crosses too deep into abstract territory. His scripts manage to be thoughtful without seeming pretentious, and above all else, they’re immensely entertaining. His latest feature film checks a lot of the same boxes, while also being more heavy handed in its presentation.
Based on the novel of the same name by Canadian author Iain Reid, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is about an unnamed woman (played by Jessie Buckley) who accompanies her boyfriend, Jake (Jesse Plemons) on a trip to his parents’ farm. They haven’t been together long, only a measly six months. As they venture through the blinding thickness of a snowstorm, she contemplates ending the relationship. Unfortunately for her, things get more complicated once they reach their destination. Reality starts to shift and bend in unimaginable ways, and the woman quickly realizes that not everything is as it seems.
This movie is a trip, very Kaufman. It’s best to go into it with a sober mind, because if you’re the least bit altered while watching it, you may feel like your brain has been dumped into a blender, in a good way. Of the films I’ve seen of his, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is one of the most cerebral. It’s overall structure resembles that of a stage play. The settings are kept minimalistic- conceptually and in terms of presentation- and the entirety of the focus is on conversations between a small handful of characters. Having this stage play quality function within a cinematic framework creates an interesting albeit uneasy juxtaposition.
Everything feels just a hint off. From the very beginning, you get a sense that the reality presented in the film is not concrete. You feel as though you’re drifting through small pockets of time that are being held together by a thin string. With each passing scene the line between what’s real and what’s surreal is increasingly blurred. Coupled with a tangible sense of isolation, the film does a great job at navigating abstract concepts of memory and time in a way that’s challenging yet consumable. Granted, a few aspects of Kaufman’s presentation veer into pretentious territory. Portions of the dialogue feel like six different philosophy dissertations mashed into one conversation between two people. Many scenes take place in a single static setting, like a car or a room, and the many long minutes spent solely in these spaces can get exhausting after a while.
Nonetheless, Kaufman’s puzzle isn’t hard to decipher. It’s a mind-bender for sure, but by the time the film reaches its third act, you can put together your own clear answer for what’s going on. The film has strung enough clues from one end of the narrative to the other to establish a defined perspective, and because the acting is so good and the production designed so interestingly, it keeps your attention throughout. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is not for everyone. But if you’re in the mood for something strange, then it’s definitely for you.