Written by: Angelo Scaringella
A silent interpretive dance, an original animated ice cream commercial, and a talking pig. These components sound like they come from three completely different movies but they’re all in fact part of the Netflix original movie, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, based off the book of the same title by Iain Reid.
The film features big names that are sure to attract attention such as Jesse Plemons, who was recently in another hit Netflix original movie, The Irishman, and director Charlie Kaufman. Other movies by Kaufman such as Being John Malkovich, Synecdoche New York, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind all have a very recognizable direction and this direction continues in I’m Thinking of Ending Things. All of Kaufman’s films are often described as surrealist and bizarre, and often spark much confusion. His newest film is no different and many people have taken to twitter and other social media platforms to express their dissatisfaction or admiration of the extremely bizarre ending.
With Charlie Kaufman's reputation for convoluted plots and all of the confusion expressed through social media, I went into this film expecting to be confused. This movie exceeded my expectations from the very beginning. As I thought I had interpreted one scene, the next scene would bewilder me even further. This is how Kaufman continues to excite viewers. He provides us with a movie viewing experience different from any other where he delivers an underlying message through a plot that is almost completely unrelated to it. I won’t be spoiling that message since the buildup to it is what really makes this movie an unforgettable experience.
It begins fairly typically with a young woman, Lucy, going on a trip with her boyfriend, Jake, to meet his parents, but something seems “off”. Every so often, one of the characters begins acting strangely or something in the setting contradicts everything that has been established. These “anomalies” range from a disappearing dog to a random threatening phone call. The entire film is reminiscent of a dream (or nightmare). I compare it to a dream because of the seemingly linear plot combined with small details that don’t seem to agree with reality. After my first viewing of the movie, I decided to rewatch major parts of it and was impressed by how well these seemingly senseless details actually work together to better express the underlying message of the film. While most parts of the movie are intriguing, there are also long stretches of time where the dialogue seems to have no direction and makes obscure references that not many will catch, including myself. These sections add to the message but at times I felt more bored than anything. This is especially noticeable in the beginning when Lucy and Jake talk for about twenty minutes on the way to his parents’ house.
The film, of course, wouldn’t be the same without the stellar performances by Jesse Plemons and Jessie Buckley. Plemons’s performance is incredible in that it sets the tone for the film. His frequent tantrums and confusing ramblings are convincing and reinforce the fall into insanity that this movie feels like. In the climax, Plemons seriously cements himself as the true main character of the story. In addition, Jessie Buckley is outstanding and separates herself from the rest of the cast. In one especially memorable part of her performance, she subtly switches her accent when reciting a movie review of A Woman Under the Influence and it actually took me a while to notice this change. Her character really becomes consumed by the monologue and she shows this with her incredible acting.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things constantly challenges the viewer to notice every small yet important detail (which sometimes feels like a chore) that is essential to understanding the overall message. It’s a type of mind game that Kaufman plays with the viewer until the very end. Every viewer will likely experience this movie differently but enjoy the exercise their mind gets while watching it. I strongly recommend this movie solely for the psychological experience it projects onto the viewer, despite some sections being slower than others. Kaufman has once again made complete sense of an issue through completely nonsensical means. It is a must-watch for anyone that is willing to put in the work to break down the complicated mess that this movie seems like, but for those looking for a casual watch, this one probably isn’t for you.