If one thing can be taken with absolute certainty, it’s that the year 2020 has been unprecedented and downright strange. I know, I’ve said that in previous new release reviews – it probably reads like I’m beating a dead horse but it’s true and the decade that this year has been doesn’t feel like it’s slowing down or letting us feel like there is a light at the end of a tunnel. The same can be said about the film industry. With a lack of block busting events that sell millions of dollars in tickets, the streaming wars have quickly and forcefully stepped in to save the day for those that miss the excitement and buzz that is opening night for an anticipated film.
The biggest names in Hollywood have turned to streaming services to showcase their latest films. Look at Martin Scorsese or Spike Lee – both have had major success in the past two years on Netflix alone with Da Five Bloods & The Irishman. Netflix is a gold mine for content, good and bad. Frankly there is more bad than good but when a good thing comes along we need to cherish it. And then there’s the few projects that make you scratch your head and ask yourself what you are actually watching.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things falls into that portion of a pie chart. Based on the novel of the same name written by Ian Reid, I’m Thinking of Ending Things follows a new couple of a Young Woman (Jessie Buckley) (also referred to ‘Lucy’ and several other names) and Jake (Jesse Plemons) who decide to take a road trip to meet Jakes Parents for a home cooked meal. The young woman contemplates ending things with Jake as she narrates the journey from the city to the country and over the course of dinner and the entire night.
“That’s why i like road trips. It’s good to remind yourself that the world is larger than the inside of your own head.”
This is the first time the young woman will be meeting Jakes parents: mother (Toni Collette) & father (David Thewlis) and she questions this 7-week-old relationship in the excruciatingly long car ride to Jakes childhood home. The scene lasts for a good half hour and that can’t be taken lightly. Dialogue is essential to a film but too much of it can derail even the best films. Mixed in on the journey to the farm are shots of a janitor (Guy Boyd) who watches rehearsals of the musical Oklahoma at the high school he works at.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is one thousand percent left up to interpretation. Writer director Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) even stated in a phone interview “I’m not really big on explaining what things are, I let people have their experiences, so I don’t really have expectations about what people are going to think. I really do support anybody’s interpretation.” The film is told from the young woman’s point of view however that might be a ruse to make things more confusing for the viewer. The title although apparent to the meaning of a breakup also brings along the connotations of an incoming suicide.
Does Kaufman have a god complex or does he enjoy the suffering of others? The car rides alone create a feeling of despair and uneasiness to it. These two are not meant to be together but somehow, they have made the relationship last this long. Most likely by sheer luck perhaps or maybe they are genuinely good people. There is certainly no topic of conversation that is off limits – anything from small talk to deep philosophical questions about poetry. Their conversations create a cringy friction between the two which further proves the point that this relationship is dysfunctional and doomed if it were to continue.
“People like to think of themselves as points moving through time, but I think it’s probably the opposite. We’re stationary and time passes through us. Blowing like cold wind, stealing our heat.”
The acting by Jesse and Jessie are phenomenal – They easily tap into a toxic energy that most couples can’t even realize they are creating, and they do it well. This is where the film thrives in its two main characters and their respective performances. Where things fall apart is everywhere else. It’s a challenging film to watch. From time jumps where mother and father age thirty plus years in either direction to the different names the young women is called by to the bizarre drug trip that is the third act it’s difficult to keep your head from spinning off its axis.
This is a dialogue heavy film. Majority of it is awkward and unpleasant especially the dinner scene. Does Jake even smile or relax from a tension he seems to have built up over the years by living with his parents? His father is eerie and unsettlingly too close for comfort in the young woman’s personal space. His mother gets yelled at and tells awkward stories while also having severe tinnitus. What is the deal with the dog Jimmy? Is Jimmy dead and what we see is just a memory of him and why isn’t the young woman allowed to go into the basement?
I’m Thinking of Ending Things asks infinitely more questions than it attempts to solve and that’s all thanks to the director’s effort or lack thereof to produce and execute a satisfactory story. A bad relationship is like a bad taste in your mouth and a bad film can leave you with a feeling as if your youth was stolen from you. Time is precious and the time spent watching this film and then going back through your mind to understand what you watched days, week even months later is time that you’ll never get back.
Overall, I’m Thinking of Ending Things has incredible performances in an overly confusing and head scratching film. This is one long drawn out acid trip where everything is made up and the rules don’t matter. There is beautiful cinematography and poor pacing that drags scene’s out longer than they have any right to be. Whatever perspective the view has after watching this film isn’t wrong, It will be up to interpretation from how you see the world around you. If I were to rate I’m Thinking of Ending Things, I’d rate it a 1.5 out of 5.
So, tell me guys, have you seen I’m Thinking of Ending Things and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is written & directed by Charlie Kaufman is Rated R and has an 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m Thinking of Ending Things was released on September 4, 2020 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 14 minutes. I’m Thinking of Ending Things can be streamed on Netflix.
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