If you love mind-bending films, that make you Google what on earth you’ve just watched, look no further. Charlie Kaufman’s here to help, with the existential nightmare that is ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’, based on Iain Reid’s novel of the same name.
Now, if you’re familiar with Kaufman’s previous films (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), you’ll know that weird is kind of his thing – but this is on another level. In fact, it’s a difficult task to even condense the plot without spoiling anything major.
On the surface, nothing really happens. Lucy (played by the brilliant Jessie Buckley) is considering ending her relationship with short-term boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons), whilst travelling to meet his parents for the first time on a farm in the middle of nowhere. However, as you soon learn with this film, nothing is that simple. Jake’s parents (David Thewlis and Toni Collette) are reminiscent of characters straight from a Jordan Peele horror film with their unnerving mannerisms and various unexplained events soon unfold.
Lucy’s name and occupation seem to be constantly changing, their family dog shakes in endless loops, and that’s not even getting started on the bizarre way that time moves in the house. This, coupled with anonymous creepy phone calls and a mysterious janitor that is somehow related (or is he?), and you have the basis for one hell of a confusing story.
At times, this is an incredibly challenging watch. Believe me when I say that there are virtually no guide ropes for the viewer if you haven’t read the book, so it’s definitely not one to watch while scrolling Instagram.
But that’s not to say that it’s not brilliant. Underpinning the whole thing is such a perfectly calculated sense of dread, that I was glued to the screen even if I wasn’t 100% sure what was happening. Plemons and Buckley give incredible performances – the former as a passive aggressive and slightly pedantic boyfriend, and the latter as someone who, just like us in 2020, is trapped in a world where nothing quite makes sense.
The story progresses through long rambling monologues in cars (covering Wordsworth, film reviews and the lyrics to ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, which incidentally, are definitely creepy). There’s a trip to an ice cream parlour in the middle of a snowstorm, a ballet scene and even a musical number at one point. And yet, somehow, I couldn’t tear my eyes away. As the main characters seem to drive endlessly through the night, you can’t help but be reminded that you’re also being taken on this journey, with absolutely no sense of where you’re going or how you got here.
It’s not for everyone, but for those who are willing to commit to it (and be fully prepared to fall down the rabbit hole of explanation articles afterwards), ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ is well worth the watch.
You can check out ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ on Netflix, or buy the book.