Director, writer and executive producer Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich) is back after a five year hiatus with his latest American psychological horror, I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Based on the 2016 book of the same name by Iain Reid, the film stars Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette and David Thewlis.
Lucy (Jessie Buckley, although credited as ‘Young Woman’) is clearly having second thoughts about her 7-week-old relationship with boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons). But she pushes through and heads off on a road trip to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) at his family farm in the middle of nowhere. During a blizzard and trapped with his parents, she becomes entwined with the inner monologue of her life and questions reality as well as subconsciously battling her inner demons. Time doesn’t seem to flow chronologically, people aren’t the same – they’re old one minute then young again the next, and something as simple as her own name gets blurred.
Well, where do I even begin?
It’s like watching a very long poem unfold in front of you; it is delicate, passionate yet peculiar and odd. Funny at times yet creepy – this film toys with your emotions and makes you feel differently to how you should. I’m Thinking of Ending Things should not be watched if you’re not going to concentrate. If you need a distraction from life and don’t want to worry about following along (go give your brain a bit of a break), then don’t watch this film. But… you should.
It takes some time to get into, following heavy conversations in Jake’s car as they drive to the farm, but once inside – you have to stay. You have a sense of wonder, who are these people, what is happening here and why? But before you know it, the 138 minute long film has ended and you question – ‘what on earth did I just watch?’
The one thing I’m sure of is that this film holds a lot of doubt. Is it Lucy, Louisa or Amy? Is she a waitress, scientist or artist? Did they meet in the pub or was she his waitress? Is it him who has the issues or is it her… or is it something else entirely? There’s a lot of unanswered questions that can’t be answered simply because we don’t know how to. All four of these superb actors gave such sublime performances, with Collette and Plemons taking the paludits. It’s rare to find a film so accomplished with only a small handful of actors.
On the whole, the film is powerful with a great cast. The music, direction and cinematography is eloquent, clever and emotional. At times it feels messy, yet there’s an organised rhythm to it without feeling too overwhelmed by the whole ‘confusing plot’ type thing. As I was left with quite a few unanswered questions, I feel I might perhaps benefit from a second viewing. This could possibly help me figure out the true meaning behind I’m Thinking of Ending Things… but perhaps I never will.