I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020): The Human Condition in Three Acts

The new Charlie Kaufman film, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, has been met with a varying degree of opinions. Some really enjoyed the film while others, not so much. Personally, I liked the film, but that’s only after thinking about it overnight to really make sense of what I watched. 

Charlie Kaufman is a director and screenwriter that I love, so I partly knew to expect something a bit bizarre, something out of the ordinary. But, this may be one of his more bizarre films yet. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is based off the book of the same title by Iain Reid. From what I can tell, Kaufman took some liberties with the film, mainly the true lack of explanation about what the viewer has just watched. What can be deduced from the film is two things: existentialism, hedonism, and narcissism are the three big themes, and that we are watching the mental break of, one can assume, Jake, much later in his life. Interestingly enough, though, our narrator is not the character of Jake, but of the nameless young woman he is taking to meet his parents. 

Kaufman does an excellent job of keeping the viewer guessing and of keeping the viewer confused, all while playing to the actors’ talents. Toni Collette, who I have come to really love in recent years, does a phenomenal job portraying Mother as does David Thewlis, who plays Father. They are both excellent at playing parents who seem unhinged. They help to emphasize the existential theme in the film. Jesse Plemons plays the aforementioned Jake, playing him as innocent and unnerving at the same time. The Young Woman is played by Jessie Buckley and she does a tremendous job in making the viewer believe that this character is going through a full mental breakdown. Kaufman is excellent at playing to the actor’s strengths. 

Kaufman’s directing and the choices made for this film are nothing short of remarkable. We already know Kaufman is good with camera tricks from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but he kicks it up a notch here. The actress playing Young Woman changes slightly at one point in the film and it happens so quickly that you second guess what you just saw. There’s picture tricks and editing tricks throughout and the timeline is repeatedly manipulated, solidifying the sense of uneasiness in the viewer, aligning you perfectly with Young Woman. 

I’m still processing this film. I’m pretty sure I’ll still be thinking about it in a couple of days. I’ll constantly think about the line ” Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. That’s an Oscar Wilde quote.” because, honestly, it’s one of my biggest fears. This film struck a nerve, and it was perfectly executed. 

 

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is now available for streaming on Netflix. 

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