Cinema Review: I'm Thinking of Ending Things | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Studio: Netflix
Directed by Charlie Kaufman

Aug 27, 2020 Web Exclusive
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Adapted from Iain Reid’s novel of the same name, Charlie Kaufman’s latest film, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, takes place over the span of one night. The film opens with Jake (Jesse Plemons) and his purposely unnamed girlfriend (Jessie Buckley) in a car, driving to Jake’s parents’ house (Toni Collette and David Thewlis). Their relationship seems stale and cold as they spend their road trip time making small talk. The thought of ending things with Jake is always lodged in the girlfriend’s mind, narrated by a voiceover. The idea comes to her every time there is a stretch of awkward silence or when a conversation runs out of steam. When the two finally arrive at Jake’s parents’ house, things begin to descend into madness, leaving both Jake’s girlfriend and the audience with a lot to piece together.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things demands a lot of patience. The film is extraordinarily slow-burning mostly because of how little actually happens on screen. There are only four locations in the film, including the inside of Jake’s car. Because of the lack of mobility, Kaufman mostly relies on the dialogue between characters to keep viewers checked in. This is a testament to the film’s script and the performances, particularly from the leads. Buckley and Plemons nail the bitterness and resentment between their two characters perfectly. Their relationship is such a defining factor for both of them, yet they don’t care about it. The film thrives on this dynamic. While only on-screen for a short amount of time, Collette’s and Thewlis’ performances help drive the unsettling nature of the film. The chemistry between the characters consistently creates an environment that always feels deeply uncomfortable for the viewer.

That uncomfortable feeling, though, is what allows I’m Thinking of Ending Things to work best. Part of the appeal of Reid’s novel is that it drives the reader crazy with little annoying repetitions and confusing occurrences, an idea that Kaufman’s film uses to its advantage. Lines, visuals, and music are always repeating to a high degree, and every single scene is insanely dialogue-heavy. This can be draining at times, but the uniqueness of the way the plot unfolds is consistently entertaining and difficult to forget.

Kaufman has made it clear that he wants Reid’s book and his film to stand separately from each other. While the two have similar build ups, the film’s final stretch veers in a very different direction. Instead of relaying its ideas in a straightforward fashion, the end of the film relies on viewers to pick up the pieces and make sense of them for themselves. The final 15 minutes are artsy and aesthetically interesting, but by introducing ideas in the first parts of the film and not directly concluding them, it’s difficult to understand some of the points the film wants to make.

The ideas are all there in overwhelming amounts, but they simply cannot build up to something cohesive enough by the time the film reaches its ending; the one biggest disappointment especially given all the thought and craft involved. That’s not to say I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a bad movie. Rather, it’s incredibly engaging. It utilizes excellent performances and a razor-sharp script and succeeds at being a deeply unsettling psychological experience that requires a lot of thought to fully comprehend.


Author rating: 7/10

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