A bizarre, strange, and absorbing experience from Charlie Kaufman.
When you’re in a dark, snowy environment, you can tell something weird or sinister is afoot. It applied to “The Shining,” “The Thing,” and “The Lodge,” and now it’s happening in Charlie Kaufman’s latest entry “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” which is based on Iain Reid’s horror novel. In his third directorial position after “Synecdoche, New York” and “Anomalisa,” he draws the film with a certain Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, and Paul Thomas Anderson vibe, and drives you up the wall with all the twists and turns along the way.
It’s been released in select theaters last week and is now available to stream on Netflix, so I’m not sure how movie-goers will take this kind of movie. But in my experience, I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Jessie Buckley stars as a young woman, who is given thoughts about ending things. What does she mean by that? Does she mean killing herself or ending her relationship with her boyfriend of 7 weeks Jake (Jesse Plemons)? It’s hard to say. She just thinks: “I’m thinking of ending things.” We’re able to read her thoughts about what she observes and the world she lives in. And she also receives a phone call from a friend (Oliver Platt’s voice), asking for her final answer. We don’t know what exactly, he just says “one question to answer.”
She likes Jake as a smart and sensitive sweetheart, but she feels something’s wrong here. She travels with him through a snowy environment to visit his family’s farm. David Thewlis and Toni Collette play his parents, who start off normal and end up being dementia patients. Actually, they age forwards and backwards, and this process begins to confuse the girl.
Theres a blizzard outside, and the girl needs to go home for work in the morning, but Jake assures her he has chains for his tires. And on their way home, Jake has to make some pits stops, which stresses her out, because she just wants to go home.
I didn’t understand all the conversations about quantum physics or some other topics, but they’re all presented in a poetic beat, and each moment feels like a Kaufman shot. For instance, there’s a conversation earlier in the film where the couple talks about how movies are practically lies which help pass the time, and yet they’re entertained by them. After all, Jake knows his Broadway musicals, with “Oklahoma” being his favorite.
Buckley provides her best work since “Wild Rose” in the ways she digs deep into her character, and keeps her emotions balanced. Plemons is also passionate as her boyfriend, and these two are able to have chemistry. And Thewlis and Collette both give haunting, unusual, and versatile performances as the main parents of the film.
On the side, we see an elderly janitor (Guy Boyd) walking in a high school hallway with “Oklahoma” actors dancing between lockers, watching a Robert Zemeckis which features a waitress (Colby Minifie) being fired from her job after her boyfriend (Jason Ralph) causes a scene, and seeing him in his cold truck. I like the way Kaufman is able to connect him to the story, and how he paints his interesting scenes with art.
“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is a weird movie from Kaufman, and yet, at the same time, you’re able to see something new in various sections at the same time.
Now Playing In Select Theaters, and Now Available on Netflix