Based on the debut novel of the same name by Canadian writer Iain Reid, I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS is eccentric and unsettling. Charlie Kaufman delves deep into themes those familiar with his work will have grown accustomed to, including identity crisis, and the meaning of life. The fluidity of time is a highlight and serves as a repeated question to both the audience and the film’s protagonist. What begins as a typical plotline quickly turns eerie.
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS follows a young woman (Jessie Buckley) as she travels with her boyfriend, Jake (Jesse Plemons) through heavy snow to visit his parents at their farm. Through intermittent narration, we find the pair have only been together for a few months, but Buckley’s character finds herself wanting to end a relationship she feels otherwise trapped in.
Reality blends with fiction in this adaptation, and Kaufman makes conscious decisions to stray from the source material. Always endearing, albeit confusing. Kaufman’s film lends itself to interpretations from the viewer. Does the female protagonist’s entrapment outline the entire premise of the film or is she a manifestation of Jake’s every aspiration? A reminder of his failure to succeed.
Some may find fault in the film, in which narrative repeats itself like a pinball and several slow-paced car rides are inhabited by outlandish, yet poetic monologues. But minute details contribute to a larger ideal. The hair and costuming department excel in their own right, with aspects of the character’s wardrobes sometimes changing mid-scene, a surface level hint towards the oddities of the film’s narrative. The cinematography, embedded in moody hues of blues and greens, is notably brilliant, and often bears resemblance to artworks supposedly crafted by the film’s protagonist.
Toni Collette and David Thewlis are enticing in their respective roles as the peculiar Mother and Father duo. After Collette’s award-winning performance in the 2018 horror, HEREDITARY, this is another stellar title to add to her resume as a contemporary scream queen.
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS is a rare gem that sits with you after you’ve finished it, boasting the kind of meticulous puzzle-solving which modern audiences enjoy. However, labelling Kaufman’s work along the same lines of surrealist filmmakers like David Lynch would be to both ignore and eradicate its relation to the everyday person’s insecurities.
At its core, I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS is rooted in metaphor and stems from our desire to interpret our experiences through fictitious realities. A fantastic addition to Netflix’s already extensive catalogue, and a welcome change from the platform’s typical content. A meeting-the-parents plotline has never been so intriguing.