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Film Review: I'm Thinking of Ending Things

8 September 20 words: Miriam Blakemore-Hoy

Thinking of watching I’m Thinking of Ending Things? Miriam Blakemore reviews Charlie Kaufman’s latest film...

Director: Charlie Kaufman
Starring: Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette
Running time: 134 minutes

I’ve been looking forward to watching Charlie Kaufman’s new film ever since Netflix announced its premiere date. To watch a Kaufman film is to experience something new, yet familiar; profoundly wise and serious, but with light comic touches; something that can make absolutely no sense and have your brain screaming at the screen for some logic to manifest itself somewhere, and yet for it to all fit together perfectly in your mind an hour later, just like experiencing a waking dream.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things did not disappoint. Coming five years after the acclaimed Anomalisa, Kaufman has taken a route more reminiscent of classic horror, rather than comedy or drama. Based on the book by Iain Reid, there is a very strong sense of foreboding, right from the beginning, of something dark lurking just around the corner that seizes hold of your imagination and doesn’t let up for the whole two hours, fourteen minutes runtime. It won’t help your nerves that the very fabric of the world holding the narrator in its grasp becomes so utterly untrustworthy and deceptive as to have you questioning every character, every motivation and every action unfolding in front of you, and leaving you so jumpy that you’re liable to lose your mind at anything sudden.

A young woman is travelling with her boyfriend Jake, to visit his parents for the first time. While they travel, she muses on the notion of breaking up with him, turning the reasons why and how over in her mind. Yet something doesn’t seem right. Does he know what she is planning to do? How does he seem to be so well attuned to her inner monologue? And if he does know what she is thinking, is he willing to let her go that easily? As they journey towards their destination, the feeling of utter wrongness grows and spreads.

Salvador Dali himself would probably be deliberating over it for days afterwards

In terms of plot, that’s all I can give you. Anything else will either confuse you completely or give away too much. But I also don’t want to delude you in any way. This is a chilling and completely surreal exploration into the chaos of the human psyche, that would probably have Salvador Dali himself deliberating over it for days afterwards. There are bound to be people who watch it with a feeling similar to the small boy desperately trying to see the Emperor’s new clothes. Does it make sense? What is really going on here? Just what is real and what is not? For everyone who loves it, there will be someone who hates it with a passionate fury.

What I can tell you is that the casting is utterly wonderful. The film is worth watching for David Thewlis (Father) and Toni Collette (Mother) alone. Yet, Jessie Buckley (The Young Woman) and Jesse Plemons (Jake) are where the focus really is (and rightly so). Each carries the weight of extremely complex and layered performances that perfectly complement, yet at the same time heighten and intensify, each other’s roles. As always with any Kaufman offering, the impression of it will stay with you long after the credits have finished – including deep into the night when the epiphany of what it was all really about finally comes to you.

Did you know? It took Iain Reid three years to write the original novel, drawing from his memories of travelling Canadian country roads in total darkness. Reid has his own explanation for what the end of the story means, but noted that all other interpretations are equally valid. 

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is available now on Netflix

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