I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, David Thewlis, Toni Collette, Guy Boyd
Runtime: 134 minutes
Close your eyes and picture this scene: an ominous score filled with high violin strings and a close-up shot of a character slowly walking inside an abandoned building and being followed by an unknown presence —these are just some of the many horror tropes that appear in movies that have been worn out in the cinema. As a fan of horror films, I have begun to tire of these stereotypes and yearn for something new. Thankfully, in recent years, many directors are trying to explore new territories. Instead of relying on external factors such as witchcraft, ghosts, and vampires, many film directors explore our inner monsters and delve deeper into one’s psychological enigma.
Likewise, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an unsettling, disturbing and odd film directed by Charlie Kaufman, who is well-known for directing movies that are quite difficult to comprehend. This film is definitely strange and peculiar, to say the least, because even though it claims to be a drama and a psychological thriller, there are multiple instances where the film skillfully brings its themes of regret, aging, and identity in lingering and foreboding ways.
The film begins with a young woman (Jessie Buckley) who plans to travel with Jake (Jesse Plemons), her new boyfriend, to his parents’ secluded farmhouse while at the same time thinking of ending a relationship with him. Other than that, explaining more of the plot would enter spoiler territory. Based on the Canadian author Iain Reid’s 2016 novel with the same title, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, the film starts as a normal drama genre as two characters start to talk inside a car during a snowstorm, but it slowly lures its viewers into unknown territory not just physically, but mentally as well.
On its first watch, this film requires a lot of effort. With a total runtime of 134 minutes, half of the time, I kept on questioning myself as I did not know what was going on in the film and regarded myself as a simpleton for not understanding the film. Especially, there are multiple scenes where an unrelated character who seems to have no connection to the story appears, making it hard to connect the dots. But as it turns out, many viewers were also perplexed by Kaufman’s execution as he has the tendency of not directly showing the viewers what is happening—rather offers dream-like realities and ambiguous interpretations. This ambiguity can cause viewers to feel frustrated and regard the film as pompous and pretentious as the majority of the things appearing on the screen do not make sense, but they are still entertaining.
To fully appreciate this film, this film requires multiple viewings. Most of the scenes are long and filled with heavy dialogues. While many critics are divided over the film, most of them agree that the quartet’s acting performance was phenomenal. The main stars of the film Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons, bring exceptional performances to the film. However, the film performance elevates even more through its supporting actors David Thewlis and Toni Collette, allowing the film to simultaneously bring genuinely uncomfortable moments that are both baffling and sad.
It may feel pretentious, and it might make viewers scratch their heads. But once they realize what is happening, the film’s final half skillfully brings the movie’s themes of regret, dream-like realities and showcases strange emotions. Nevertheless, even though the original reading source might have deep readings to be found in the text, the film rarely explains its premise. Therefore, perhaps it would be better if people read the text first and watch the movie to fully appreciate the depths and complexities of the themes in a more profound way.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a confusing film that requires multiple watching. But once you get used to Kaufman’s films’ styles, one common element about the film and the director’s style is that viewers don’t know where the film is headed towards. It brings multiple twists and turns and takes its audiences through multiple emotional roller-coaster rides of bewilderment, regret, and discomfort. So let that ride take you on an unforgettable journey and experience something eerie and strange.
I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Distressing, sinuous, and puzzling, I’m Thinking of Ending Things leaves viewers perplexed or distressed, but somehow manages to dazzle its viewers with its themes of regret, aging, and identity in a lingering and foreboding ways.