WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Despite second thoughts about their relationship, a young woman takes a road trip with her new boyfriend to his family farm. Trapped at the farm during a snowstorm with Jake's mother and father, the young woman begins to question the nature of everything she knew or understood about her boyfriend, herself and the world. An exploration of regret, longing and the fragility of the human spirit, I'm Thinking of Ending Things is directed and written by Academy Award winner Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and inspired by Iain Reid's bestselling namesake novel.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
No matter how much a fan of Charlie Kaufman's work you might be – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich, Anomalisa – nothing will prepare you for the unsettling, mind-bending artwork that is I’m Thinking of Ending Things. An unreliable narrator, surreal reality and the neverending reminder of your own mortality.
Like most of Kaufman's work, he leaves the interpretation of his work up to the audience – a delectable film to digest for cinephiles and amateur philosophers that enjoy simmering in a sort of neo-nihilism. If you're looking for an easy weekend watch, you should take a wide berth of this one, but if your brain is in need of something more substantial, I’m Thinking of Ending Things will feed you with bewilderment and the grim beauty of oblivion.
Based on a book by the same name, a young woman road trips with her boyfriend, Jake, to visit his parents on a farm while thinking about ending the relationship. As the trip becomes more obscure, she starts doubting her own memories and perception of her relationship with her boyfriend.
But that's as much of the story there is – instead the whole experience is a sublime essay about a range of philosophical ponderings as the characters flit through haggard changes in the origins. The two selves – the girlfriend with an ever-changing name and Jake – eventually intertwine into a duality that's at odds with each other while existing in the same space. You see how Jake resents his simple parents for his lack of natural ability and constantly tries to outdo the intellect of his girlfriend. She starts off as the main character but eventually is overtaken by a fragile masculinity that requires its own article to unpack.
As the viewer – drawn in sometimes through direct address to the camera – you're constantly challenged by changing narratives and a brittle reality that's coming apart at the seams. If you're familiar with the book, the film sticks to the starting premise, but Kaufman completely changed the ending to better fit his vision and interpretation of the characters' downward spiral into mental obscurity.
The denseness of the semiotics of the film is a mammoth task to dissect for the viewer – imagine how much harder it must have been to be part of it. Jesse Plemons and Jessie Buckley latched onto the weirdness of it all and guided by Kaufman's intense directing style they managed to hold on with deftness and prowess. Toni Collette as a sweet but abstracted mother almost steals the show and offers a nuanced look at the relationship between parents and their children and how their interactions shape each other.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is Kaufman's first film in a long time, and it's clear he has spent that time honing his ability to force new perspectives on his audiences and make us question the fragility of our imagined inner selves. The maze-like narrative is accompanied by smart camera work that symbolises the mental crossing of the psyche, its twists and turns constantly evading the truth of what's actually happening. Even after it's finished, you'll never be really sure of what is anyway.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: