There will be a lot of people who find the new Charlie Kaufman film I’m Thinking of Ending Things to be brilliant and one of the best movies of the year, and I can totally see why. It’s bold, creative and clearly trying to say something about deep themes of life, death and relationships. It also has strong performances from Jessie Buckley (who I adored in last year’s Wild Rose), Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, David Thewlis and more. All of these factors could make it a compelling work of art.
Unfortunately just like with any art there are going to be people who do not connect with it and it doesn’t inspire. With this film I am one of those people. If it does move you I totally get it but people are asking for my experience in this review. I can’t lie and say something moved me when it did not.
Let’s get into it. I’m Thinking of Ending Things stars Buckley as a ‘young woman’ who is going to meet her boyfriend Jake’s family for the weekend. She has very mixed feelings about this trip because she wants to break up with him. We then get 2 main portions of the film: First, when she arrives at the house and strange things start happening, and second, when those strange things continue on as they are driving home. That’s all I can really say without spoilers.
As these strange things happen our ‘young woman’ is confronted with themes of aging, life, death and more but none of it seemed very deep or interesting and Kaufman repeats himself a lot. By the third or fourth time seeing an aging parent, for example, you want to say ‘I get it!’ He also doesn’t make his characters very likable which makes the whimsy less enchanting.
In contrast to I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a movie called A Ghost Story which is also abstract and strange and has a similar message about the fragility of life and permanence of death. However, A Ghost Story keeps its metaphor simple and it is only a blessed 92 minutes. I often think arthouse films would be better as shorts as opposed to features but either way I’m Thinking of Ending Things is way too long at 134 minutes. Especially the last act when they are driving lost me, and I was ready for it all to be over.
Some people may throw up their hands in frustration and say ‘well Rachel you just didn’t get it’ and maybe they are right? Most of it I got, but not all of it. I don’t understand, for example, why we needed a long scene in a blizzard getting ice cream which is then immediately thrown away. I don’t understand why we need an animated pig and a naked man at a certain point? You may see that and its ambiguity and love it! Not knowing what is happening may intellectually excite you. I can respect that. It just wasn’t my experience.
If you loved I’m Thinking of Ending Things please explain what moved you in the comments section? What did you love about it? Where does it rank for you in the Kaufman canon? As for me I would pass on this one unless it sounds like your kind of thing than go for it.
4.5 out of 10