Hoping for a hopeless person in “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”
Writer-Director Charlie Kaufman is widely known for creating bizarre, outlandish films. There is no way to clearly explain the experience that comes with watching a Kaufman movie. He’s written a couple of my favorite movies of all time like “Being John Malkovich” and directed cult classics such as “Synecdoche New York.” So, after Netflix announced that this was going to be on their platform, I was excited to see the next installment in his filmography.
“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is Kaufman’s third directed movie. In the same vein of his earlier works this movie will leave you bewildered after the first viewing and likely demand a rewatch. It’s a film that is rich with questions concerning the philosophies of life and will leave you thinking about your own.
From a surface glance, this film is about a small town woman — played by Jessie Buckley — going on a road trip with her boyfriend, played by Jesse Plemons. Having only been together for a couple of months, now it’s time to take the next step in their relationship and see his parents. However, unsure if she wants to stay in the relationship, Buckley decides to go on the trip regardless due to her inability to say no in uncomfortable situations.
Once they arrive the trip turns into a surreal and disjointed meeting of the parents and the plot eventually thickens. The movie slowly transitions from a film that depicts a failing relationship to one that depicts people confused about where they’re headed in life.
There is something to love about Kaufman’s movies. Whether it’s the uncanniness of them or the philosophies behind each, there is always something to unpack beneath the surface of the film. His movies challenge his viewers with questions about humanity through a cinematic medium.
Since the couple reach their destination by car, instead of skipping this travel sequence the viewer travels with them. Most of these travel scenes tend to drag on longer than needed and the dialogue ranges from thought-provoking to downright pretentious. Ultimately, there is a lack of variety presented and could have been cut down. The characters go back and forth over philosophical debates to making references to poems and other works of literature that not everyone may recognize.
With a majority of the dialogue consisting of philosophical debates, the film does not fail to challenge its audience. Most of these debates revolve around the idea of how humanity constructs concepts like hope and time which, arguably, heavily distinguish us from other living beings.
One of the best scenes of the movie is driven by Kaufman’s ability to depict these themes in the movie. Similar to “Synecdoche New York,” once things start to become more surreal at the parent’s house, certain characters appear young then old and then young again within a blink of an eye. Resembling how thinking of the past is often rendered scattered and inconsistent, this is one of the many ways the movie remains unpredictable.
The scene at the parent’s house also generated great performances by Toni Collett as the mother and David Thewlis as the father. The ways in which they showcase each point of their characters’ life, as well as their age, feels real and successfully conveys their ranges as actors.
If a linear story and a straightforward plot with fast pacing are what you are looking for, then perhaps skip this one. However, if you enjoy Kaufman’s earlier works or psychological movies in general, then it’s a movie worth your time and most likely deserves a second watch.
Title: I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Star Rating: Four stars out of five
- Makes the viewer think critically about life and its futilities
- Surreal and entertaining look at the human psyche through a cinematic medium
- Superb acting makes characters feel believable and authentic
- Interesting and thought-provoking little details within each of the scenes
- Not everyone will recognize the references to literature and poems
- Certain scenes drag on for a little too long — noticeable lack of variety in these scenes
- The way the movie goes about presenting ideas and bits of its story will confuse most viewers