We all know Charlie Kaufman can write a pretty damn good screenplay with credits like “Being John Malkovich” (1999) and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004) to his name. He later proved his directing chops with “Synecdoche, New York” (2008), and his newest adventure entitled “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (2020), a drama-thriller based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Iain Reid, only cements his place in the directing world.
“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” follows the story of a character with many names but credited only as “Young Woman” (Jessie Buckley) as she meets her boyfriend Jake’s (Jesse Plemons) parents (Toni Collette, David Thewlis) for the first time. While things seem tense at the start, they only get more uncomfortable as time goes on and the very fabric of reality seems to deteriorate before the Young Woman’s eyes–almost as if Jake’s subconscious mind can somehow control it. Whatever he thinks just seems to happen, good or bad, as if any and every thought he experiences affects space and time.
The film is definitely gripping in the sense that viewers have to be glued to the screen constantly to absorb every last detail, lest they miss something and be even more confused than they already would be if they didn’t. The dialogue, camera angles, and cuts are fantastic, both enhancing the awkward, stilted atmosphere and alluding to the cyclical nature of Jake and the Young Woman’s relationship, which seems to stretch and expand over the entirety of Time itself.
I know that sounds insane, but hear me out: this movie is. It’s quite impossible to follow, but part of what makes it so interesting is trying to figure out how all the little pieces Kaufman shows us fit together. It’s fascinating to try to conjure up some kind of an explanation for what’s happening to the Young Woman. “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” in typical Kaufman fashion, examines the human experience together with concepts of identity, reality, memory, and aging/mortality through an incredibly critical surrealist lens.
Though we (admittedly frustratingly) might have more questions than answers at the end in terms of what actually, literally happened, I think the incoherency of the plot actually helps the audience to understand the film’s purpose. While it’s impossible to pin down a singular “explanation” for what occurs in “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” the film ultimately asks us to think about our own perceptions of its concepts in relation to our own experiences, meaning that it can technically take on infinite meanings for infinite viewers.
Filmnetic Grade: A
What did you think about “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (2020)? Were you confused? I think I know what’s going on, but I don’t want to discuss it and spoil it for people who haven’t watched yet. Comment below!