I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Film Review

I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Film Review

Director: Charlie Kaufman
Writers: Charlie Kaufman, Iain Reid (book) (as Ian Reid)
Stars: Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette, Jesse Plemons, David Thewlis

We meet Jake (Jesse Plemons) and his unnamed girlfriend (Jessie Buckley) as they drive towards Jake’s childhood home. There is a constant fall of snow onto the windscreen as they carry on a conversation. They have been seeing each other for only six weeks, so things are still relatively fresh. So much so, that the young woman thinks this is all a step too soon. She fears that she has made the wrong decision to accompany Jake on this road trip. She has decided that their relationship isn’t working out. We hear her internal monologue as she comes back to the same refrain time and again; “I’m thinking of ending things”.

This is a new work by Charlie Kaufman, one of the most creative and innovative writers in Hollywood. He wrote high concept films such as Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In more recent times, he has tried his hand as a director, with work such as Synecdoche, New York and the animated feature Anomalisa. This film is his first in five years and is based on the book of the same name by Ian Reid. Reid is a Canadian writer and this was his debut novel, released in 2016.  The book was described as “the boldest and most original literary thriller to appear in some time” by Lloyd Sachs of the Chicago Tribune, so should be a natural in the hands of Kaufman, but sadly this film never quite gels.

Despite some impressive performances from the top class acting talent involved, the film never ignites like you would have hoped. If you’re waiting for some conclusive ending or something to draw together the disparate strands, you’ll be disappointed. The plot is built on shifting sands and the structure changes from scene to scene. Characters that are on their death bed one moment, bound with life in the next. It has been described as a Horror film, but despite having some unnerving moments, it never embraces the obvious horror tropes. We’re fascinated to find out what lurks in the basement until we find the terror beneath is quite trivial. There are still many interesting points and ideas, but it lacks the sense of humour of a lot of his previous work. There are many long existential discussions on life and the world around us that are not normally seen on screen and the film is certainly quite unique. It is a film that would take repeated viewings but ultimately doesn’t hit the expected heights.

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