I’m Thinking of Ending Things Review: An intriguing thought-provoker that gets lost in its own head
The newest film from writer/director Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, is a mind-bending view into the claustrophobic horrors of being trapped in one’s mind that’s a little too in its own head.
The film, based on the novel of the same name by Iain Reid, follows a young woman (Jessie Buckley) who is thinking of ending things with her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) as they head up to meet his parents at their secluded farmhouse. Although she feels a good connection with Jake and thinks he’s a nice guy, she can’t help but feel something off about the situation and begins to question everything. However, when they arrive, she continues to feel that things are off, and that Jake is hiding things about his parents and his own personality. As things start to get stranger, she begins to question everything she knew about Jake as well as herself.
Kaufman has always been known for his existentialist themes about life, death, and meaning and that definitely doesn’t stop with I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Right from the first scene of the young woman questioning things about her relationship with Jake, the film is a perfect example of a downward spiral that leads to horrifying clarity. There’re definitely some shades of Identity and Mother! that can be felt within the story as we watch the young woman question everything about herself and Jake. The saying “breaking up is hard to do” is really given new meaning here as the film hits a relatable chord with how it displays the trials, tribulations, and pain of ending things.
Most people, at some point in their lives, have to deal with the end of something – maybe it’s a relationship, a job, a major life event, or the death of someone close to them. In some ways, these are often moments where people reflect on things and gain a new sense of clarity not only about what’s ending, but also about themselves. This film encapsulates all of these feelings as watching the young woman reflect on things is sort of like experiencing a sense of sad nostalgia that becomes very real, very fast. Even though the though of ending things with Jake has consumed her mind, there’s a part of the young woman’s mind that still cares for Jake’s feelings. Thus, as she learns more about his family and sees a different side of him, she’s thrown into this perpetual uncertainty that makes it harder to grasp her feelings and her reality. As she begins to question her perspective on things, especially in the beginning, there’s a lot for viewers to attach to and the performance elevate all of impact of the thoughts running through the film.
Buckley and Plemons have been major rising stars recently and their work in this film is some of their best. Buckley delivers some really stellar inner monologues and evokes the slow drain that’s occurring within the young woman as reality and her sense of self become lost within her. The way she questions her future and feelings throughout the film has this intriguing relatability to it that’s very poignant and hits on a reality that most people just try to ignore. It’s the kind of horror that is just being lost within your own head, but it’s oddly more comforting than Jake. Plemons is just as intriguing as Jake, but not in the same way that Buckley is as the young woman. With the young woman, we’re constantly in her head hearing her though, but with Jake that’s the total opposite.
Jake is the kind of person that’s tough to peg and is a big part to why the film carries this mysterious and strange tone to it that initially hooks you. It always feels like he knows more than he’s letting on or wanting to leave details about himself that he isn’t confident about out in order to keep his relationship going. There’re plenty of moments that show him to be both dangerous and charming and it’s what makes him such a complex and compelling character. Not to mention, Plemons is absolutely haunting throughout the entire experience as he controls your attention in the same way that he attempts to control the situation as his inner demons and flaws rise to the surface. There’s also two great supporting performances from Toni Colette and David Thewlis as Jake’s parents with them creating eerie, odd, and entrancing depictions of dementia that’ll leave viewers stunned.
Honestly, at its core, the film is a great showing of what it’s like to be trapped within your past and even your own head. The film slowly hints at this major turning point throughout the entire film of what Jake is exactly hiding and what the young woman is experiencing. Once it hits where things are exactly going and what things really mean, there’s definitely something intriguing about it as it reflects the claustrophobic horrors of being trapped within your own failure and past regrets. However, Kaufman gets lost in his own head as the dialogue, pacing, and obscurity of the film make it a total slog to get through.
The film is really a bunch of long-winded conversations that could’ve been interesting to be apart of since the performances are so strong, but are ultimately weighed down by all of the pretentious scholar talk that consumes these characters and makes for a dull watch. It’s honestly very hard to connect to these characters after while because the film is just consumed by this overly artsy dialogue and it makes the film become so obscure that it take so much effort just to figure everything out. Even when you do, it’s hard to say that there’s something completely worthwhile about it. Like I said, the film definitely hooks you from the start with the dialogue and the answers do have interesting aspects to them, but it definitely struggles to retain your attention and becomes a bit of a strange bore with its same old tricks.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things definitely has some thought-provoking themes about “the end,” standout performances from Buckley and Plemons, and an intriguing oddness to it that makes for an initially interesting watch. However, it ultimately succumbs to being lost in its own head and it’s hard to say if it’ll be exactly a worthwhile viewing with how overly slow and methodical it is.