Academy award winning writer Charlie Kuafman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is known for crafting dense, oftentimes non-linear narratives that refreshingly merit repeated viewings. I’m Thinking of Ending Things, a feature based on Ian Reid’s bestselling novel, snugly fits into that asthetic, refreshingly upending our expectations while delivering an immersive tale.
A young woman (Jessie Buckley) beings the story with a voiceover that details her regrets over traveling with her new boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) to visit his parents’ (Toni Collette, David Thewlis) farm house. She has way too much work to do, and she’s already thinking of ending things with him. This makes the trip a futile one for the woman, as she looks forward to immediately leaving the house after dinner.
A snowstorm as well as Jake dragging his feet to leave leads the woman to stay much longer than expected. The feature sporadically cuts to a separate story of a janitor (Guy Boyd) cleaning a high school while watching students rehearse a production of Oklahoma!.
How does a janitor tie into the main story? Why does Charlie Kaufman spend a healthy portion of his 134 minute narrative with the woman and Jake uncomfortably conversing in the car? What lies in the parents’ mysterious basement?
All of these questions are mainly answered in the tale, and the movie is beautifully shot by Cold War cinematographer Lukasz Zal. That said, the exposition filled narrative may turn cinephiles who may be turned off by the film’s abundant use of exposition (thus it makes sense that one of Jake’s favorite poets is William Wordsworth).
There are a lot of words in I’m Thinking of Ending Things, and the back and forth strained chats between Jake and the woman may be too much for some to handle. For Kaufman enthusiasts, however, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is cinematic catnip.
Filled with inspired work from the main actors (Collette channels a bit of her Hereditary creepiness in this role), I’m Thinking of Ending Things was a purely captivating and mindbending experience for this reviewer. Plemons and Buckley play lovers who are gradually coming apart at the seems, and both bring a resonant level of nuance to this frayed relationship.
There is a twist that occurse during the middle of the film, and by the end I needed a bit of clarification on what this story all meant. Some of the references and events went over my head, and it took this book reviewer Kayla Christenson to spell things out for me. Once I finally understood what had happened, my appreciation for this movie went to an even higher level.
The young woman is asked by Jake’s father about why she doesn’t place people in her landscape paintings. The person, in her estimation, is the person who is looking at the actual painting, and he or she can place themselves into whatever space lies before them. I’m Thinking of Endings Things encourages us to realize how, though we can be influenced by so many things around us, we can also be a huge architect of our own reality.
Here’s my video review of I’m Thinking of Ending Things:
Another first rate tale from Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a challenging and ultimately rewarding look at our imaginative yet fragile humanity. The young woman may think of ending things, but Kaufman wants us to keep dreaming and living, even if it gets a bit too snowy for our own good.