Director: Charlie Kaufman
Writer(s): Charlie Kaufman
Cast: Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette
Synopsis: Despite second thoughts about their relationship, a young woman (Jessie Buckley) takes a road trip with her new boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to his family farm. Trapped at the farm during a snowstorm with Jake’s mother (Toni Collette) and father (David Thewlis), the young woman begins to question the nature of everything she knew or understood about her boyfriend, herself, and the world. An exploration of regret, longing, and the fragility of the human spirit, I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS is directed and written by Academy Award® winner Charlie Kaufman (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND). Inspired by Iain Reid’s bestselling namesake novel.
There is something special about films that manage to trap you. Whether that be in the story, the direction, the acting, or just the movie in general, evoking that sense of entanglement, and from the small screen nonetheless, is mind-bending. But what is even more incredible is when a filmmaker makes a movie so off the wall and loaded that you manage to find yourself not only encapsulated with what is ON the screen, but you manage to enter into the screen and be among the film as a character and not an audience.
Charlie Kaufman does that beautifully and manages to pull a lot from his audience in i’m thinking of ending things. However, what I believe he does the absolute best is the fact that he gets his audience involved more than the typical film. Done with extremely long and drawn-out takes that might feel like an eternity at times, they also give you the feeling of being in these situations and scenes with these characters. It feels, at times, like it is shot in real-time, even though you know it isn’t (or do you?), and allows the audience to become more invested with these characters. You essentially become a bystander in this mystifying and uncanny world that becomes uncomfortable and claustrophobic in the best of ways.
Because what I love so much about this horror film is the fact that it doesn’t try to scare you with any single moments, but is instead a psychological masterclass in truly evoking emotions you never knew you had in the first place. In reality, it isn’t all that scary of a movie. There are not really any moments that make you jump, or scream, or want to look away from the screen. This film actually does the opposite in its ability to pull you in and not allow you to look away, even for a second.
This level of filmmaking, if I had to narrow it down, reminded me of David Lynch, and more specifically Mulholland Dr., in the way that it is a spell bending epic that forces you to think existentially before anything else. This is not a movie you will be able to throw on in the background, you are almost forced to watch it, whether you want to or not, and to me, that is excellent filmmaking.
This movie couldn’t have done it without the performances to bat, and there was an entire heap of them here. I truly cannot think of one person in the movie who gave even a below-average performance. David Thewlis, Toni Collette, and Jesse Plemons all managed to absolutely command the screen any time they were shown. Plemon’s performance is entirely uncanny in a way that makes him feel villainous without ever being a villain. He is the character you should question the most, as he is the one who asks the most as well. I want to talk more about his climactic scene, but I will refrain from this review.
We saw Toni Collette with Hereditary, then Lupita Nyong’o with Us, and Florence Pugh with Midsommar really show us the rise in female-led horror films. Each of those actresses gave some of the best performances of that year. I thought at the beginning of the year it was going to be Elisabeth Moss for The Invisible Man, but even I can say what she did in that movie, albeit great, won’t hold a candle to Jessie Buckley in this film. She is frightening and her ability to flip on the dot is menacingly beautiful. I was upset when Brie Larson dropped out of doing this, but I truly don’t think anyone else could have pulled this off. This was her role and she is a star, point blank period.
For a lot of this movie, you are going to try to understand it. I think why this movie works so well is because even if you don’t understand what is going on, you can always tell something is going on. It took me a second viewing to fully know what was happening, but when I did the movie became that much better. If I have any advice, it is don’t force it to make sense, let it play out. Allow yourself to be overtaken by this movie and this world, and try to piece the puzzle together at the end.
I don’t want to dive into spoilers and so if this review was bland or seems half-hearted, I just want everyone to have the experience I had. Because that is what this is, and that is what we have been missing… a true experience. The direction by Kaufman is something I had no idea he could even pull off, the cinematography is GORGEOUS, the script is incredible, the editing and sound are basically perfect. There is truthfully just so little I could find wrong about this movie. When you think this movie can’t get better, it somehow always does and will leave you wanting more.
Final: i’m thinking of ending things is a masterclass in psychological horror that will undoubtedly be one of the best horror films of the decade. It is already one of Netflix’s best. This will be in my top 5 of the year, and I am extremely excited to give it my first 5-star rating of the year. I am going to be revisiting this countless times and I already want to pre-order the Criterion edition. It’s insanely wonderful.
Shoutout @nabeelonfilm for guessing correctly!
Awards Prospects: For Oscars: Adapted Screenplay, Lead Actress
For Me: Across the board. Everywhere.
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.