by Kyle Arango
To watch a relationship end can be something that brings out very different emotions. If it is a tumultuous one, you’re happy to see it end but when two people truly love each other and bring out the best in them, it is hard when that relationship ends. So when the writer of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Charlie Kaufman, decides he wants to tackle that subject material, you pay attention. What Kaufman did with I’m Thinking of Ending Things is bring out all of those emotions in me I mentioned. This is a whirlwind of a film that is truly not for everyone, but one well worth giving a try.
In I’m Thinking of Ending Things follows Jessie Buckley who is simply known as “The Young Woman” who is on a trip with her new boyfriend Jake to his parent’s home in the middle of nowhere. She is having an internal conflict of how to end her relationship with Jake but can’t figure out a way to or if she even wants to. It is clear the relationship is on the rocks and when they arrive back to Jake’s hometown, a journey of age and existence begins for the young woman who tries to grasp with the long-term effects of decisions. If this sounds confusing to you, that is because it is. This film does not hold your hand and tell you everything you need to know, it just pushes you into the dark and allows you to interpret it for yourself. Was I lost? Absolutely, but that is not to say I did not enjoy this existential journey I was on. It is a trip that is certainly not for everyone, and it doesn’t fully succeed either, but if you want to blow your mind thinking about how fast aging actually happens, this film is for you.
I have a very mixed relationship when it comes to these artsy fartsy movies. Those films that have a point they want to get across but instead of going from point A to B, they walk backwards, dig a hole, and close their eyes on their way there. It is not easy to sit down and watch so when one of them takes that swing, they have to have confidence that it works and hope the audience agrees. With this film, I am partly there. While I respect where it was trying to go, I was very lost for part of this film and it got to a point where it just became so self-indulgent in its own style. This film is incredibly smart and wants us to question our own thoughts, but it just comes across as ideas that sounded good out loud but didn’t fully come together. You really need to enjoy art house films to enjoy this, the last 20 minutes consist of a dance and song. Just fair warning, Charlie Kaufman wants to make you think and if that is not how you like enjoy your films, this isn’t for you. It is like Mother! meets Midsommar, a movie designed to make you uncomfortable with your thoughts.
Make no mistake though, this cast is incredible. Jessie Buckley has quickly shot up to become one of the most underrated actors to keep your eye on. In this film, she gets to fully utilize everything and go from distraught to lost to happy so quick. I can feel the internal struggle in her trying to decide how to end things. She is given multiple monologues that can be incredibly complicated, but she delivers them like an actress would who has been in the game forty years, and she is only 30. Jesse Plemons on the other end is incredible as well, he kind of disappears for a gap in this film for Buckley to shine, but when he is there, he delivers. The true standouts from this however are Toni Collette and David Thewlis who play Jake’s parents. They get to play parents at various stages of life out of order and it is truly a treat to behold. Collette especially has been robbed of award’s races the past couple years, and she probably will again with this performance that is one of her best. These actors all understand this material way more than we do as an audience, and it is fun to watch them lose themselves in it.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is Netflix’s most ambitious film to date. It is not for everyone and many will be turned off by it immediately, but for those of you who enjoy being put to the test during a film, this is for you. The acting is incredible despite the muddled messaging, which helps keep you from losing interest. The phrases “where is this going” or “what is going on” will be constantly in your mind and if that isn’t an indicator as to if you’ll enjoy this movie, I don’t know what is.