'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' Review
As a writer and director, Charlie Kaufman certainly plays by his own rules. He’s created such quirky, daring projects as “Being John Malkovich”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Anomalisa”. His latest directorial effort is his first since venturing into adult stop-motion animation.
“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is based on the 2016 novel by Iain Reid. The main characters are a young woman who may be named Lucy (played by “Wild Rose”’s Jessie Buckley) and her newish boyfriend, Jake (Jesse Plemons). The couple drive through a snowstorm to the rural farmhouse where Jake grew-up so she can meet his parents (who are played by Toni Collette and David Thewlis).
Buckley’s character is our narrator of sorts. We often get to hear her thoughts. The title refers to the fact that she’s thinking of ending her relationship with Jake but doesn’t know how to tell him. These thoughts fill her mind while she and Jake talk about various things during the trip. The first car ride takes-up more than 20-minutes of the overall 2-hour, 15-minute movie.
As this story slowly develops we slowly begin thinking there’s something “off” about the entire situation. This vibe is amplified when the duo arrives at the farmhouse. As these characters begin to say and do unusual things — and their appearances begins to shift — we realize we don’t quite know what we’re witnessing anymore.
A few minutes minutes go by and I thought I knew what’s happening. Then something happens… and I’m back being perplexed. After another 10-minutes I’m thinking, ‘Alright, I know what Kaufman’s trying to say and do here, and I’m pretty sure I know how this will play out.’ And then in the blink of an eye I’m back to square one. Kaufman makes us work very hard to keep up with what’s going on — and there’s no downtime.
Kaufman actually plays with time throughout “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”. He’s also plays with emotions, while taking shots at cinematic genre stereotypes while commenting on the ups and downs of relationships. But his ultimate intentions are incredibly unclear. It’s difficult to latch onto one character or theme because so much of this film is not sufficiently resolved.
However, technically, this is a high-quality creation. The snowy car rides are effectively eerie, as are all the interactions between these strange people. High marks all around for sound editing, camera work and film editing. There are even key moments of animation that work quite well.
And Buckley is excellent. Without giving too much away, the role(s) demands her to play someone who’s knowledgable about a variety of subjects that span many decades. It’s a performance that could put her back in some Best Actress conversations. The problem is she might get overlooked because not enough people will see this movie… or make it all the way through.
I can see non-Kaufman fans about an hour into “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” saying, “Let’s just give up and watch something else.” The majority of this movie is undeniably puzzling. And for those familiar with the novel, Kaufman shakes-up the final act, changing the book’s ending. He leaves much of the story intentionally ambiguous. Don’t expect concrete answers to about two dozen questions. Instead, we’re asked to come-up with our own ending…of things.
I’m thinking I’m not a huge fan of this cinematic shortcut.