I’m Thinking Of Ending Things | Charlie Kaufman | September 4, 2020

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things is probably a dangerous phrase to be uttered with the current state of things. This phrase could be taken in a few ways, one hinting at a dark way to bow out of life or to end a relationship that you just don’t see going anywhere. This is the case for a young woman (Jessie Buckley) who is thinking off breaking off her relationship with Jake (Jesse Plemons), just as they’re about to embark on a visit to meet his parents (Toni Collette, David Thewlis) for the very first time for dinner – as they have only been dating for just short of two months.

The trip is anything but normal. She keeps thinking to herself “I’m thinking of ending things” and it’s like Jake can hear her or read her mind. Upon arrival at the house, there is something completely off about the experience. Things don’t seem to be as they seem with both his parents and the house, with elements of time and place changing in a disorienting fashion, where you start to question what exactly is going down.

Only, there are a fair share of hints about where things are headed very early on for the attentive viewers. It’s the how and execution that will make Kaufman’s film one of the most polarizing films of the year.

There are long extended sequences of conversations in the car shared between the couple, ranging from a variety of topics of poetry, life, existence, even film criticism reference to Pauline Kael and her criticism of A Woman Under the Influence. It’s all shot in a tightly framed disorienting fashion by two-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Łukasz Żal in the square Academy ratio to help enhance the claustrophobic nature of this journey and this woman who wants to be anywhere but where she is and is unable to escape.

Only this being a Kaufman film and script, adapted from Iain Reid’s novel of the same name, things aren’t quite what they same and the answers you’re looking for are buried deep underneath the surface. Kaufman always offers cerebral and often surreal viewing experiences that challenge the viewer, often leaving things up to their own unique personal interpretation. That is somewhat the case here, only the journey of getting there isn’t always the easiest. It’s not so much the what, but the how.

Kaufman is at his best when he taps into his surreal moments when they’re neatly tied into a fine-tuned emotional expression of the human condition. There are some wonderous moments to be found here but they are often isolating and don’t break the surface emotionally, leaving me somewhat cold as I tried to sit through the laborious dialogue and scatterbrained nature.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of material to ruminate and there is no doubt that this is the sort of film that demands and requires at least two viewings, and even then, there will still be many deliberations to be had about its symbolism.

The experience is held together by the commanding performance by Jessie Buckley, who once again proves that she is one of the finest young actors emerging in Hollywood, who should have broken out with last year’s Wild Rose in a fair world. She brings emotion and humanity to a film that can often be disorienting and cold. Equally strong is Jesse Plemons who gets to bring a lot of what has made him a reliable supporting force for the past couple of years, but he also gets to showcase new range as well. Although their screentime is a bit more chopped up, both Toni Collette and David Thewlis are their typically terrific selves.

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things succeeds in challenging the viewer in a creative way that has a skillfully crafted screenplay, unique vision from Kaufman, and some stunning cinematography. There was a lot to pull from the film, almost overwhelmingly so. It most certainly won’t be for everyone and it’s going to inspire a ton of debates about its true meaning and what exactly goes down. While I was impressed with its overarching vision and ambition, it ends up being a film I admired and appreciated, while keeping me at arm’s length on an emotional level.

Rating: 7.5/10