Charlie Kaufman is the person behind so many of my favourite films. After it came out in 2015, Anomalisa was my favourite film of that year. Not to mention the film that got him his Best Original Screenplay Oscar, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Or his debut film as a director, Synedoche, New York which kind of shatters me every single time I see it. So when I found out he was going to make a new feature film, it suddenly became one of my most anticipated films of the year.
I was so excited I even went out and read the book.
Iain Reid published I’m Thinking of Ending Things in 2016, but the book only really got on my radar earlier in 2020 when I realized that Kaufman had finished filming it and that it would come out on Netflix sometime in the fall. So, I picked up the book and read it before work. And I couldn’t put it down. Reid’s book is the first book I was able to focus and finish in a long time, and also read it at an alarming fast rate. So I read it again, because just like the film, once it’s over, you’re going to want to watch it again, and again.
A Young Woman (Jessie Buckley) and her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) are going on a road trip to meet his parents Mother (Toni Colette) and Father (David Thewlis). She agrees and goes on the road trip because even though they’ve been dating for a very short time, because as the title states, she’s thinking of ending things. And as all time passes while they’re at the house, and as they almost are stuck due to a snow storm, she truly begins to question everything.
I’m not sure how general audiences are going to react to this film. To say that a Charlie Kaufman film is bizarre is an understatement, but there’s a lot that’s going on in this movie – and I’m not entirely sure where I always sit on whether that’s a good thing, or a bad thing.
Before I truly get more into the spoiler territory of the review, there was something about this film that just made me, sad. In the novel, I never truly was focused on being sad, I was always tense, and stuck in suspenseful scenes. There were moments that I had to put my book down because it truly felt like it got under my skin. And while some of the atmosphere of the book is showcased in the book, I felt this overwhelming sense of sadness throughout it. There’s a moment in the film where we’re told that Jake’s girlfriend is a painter, and she makes landscapes. But sometimes her paintings help capture this sadness that she’s feeling, but Jake’s father points out that he can only feel the sadness in a painting if he saw someone in it being sad, but not by looking at the fields or the landscape on his own. Is this Kaufman’s way of attempting to tell us that he’s sad? Or that Jake is?
Spoilers for those who’ve read the novel.
As always there are changes in adapting from novel to screen, and to me, it feels like a decent big one. To still be mildly vague for those curious folks who are still reading, we never truly get the full grasp of the mysterious phone calls she keeps getting. And on top of that, we see the Janitor almost immediately in the film. As a reader, we understand the connection of the Janitor to the climax of the film, and instead of having a scary being followed moment in the school, we get this emotional dance.
Spoilers end. Read on.
As I said, I’m not what the general audience is going to feel about this film, and on top of that, even film lovers might still be a bit unsure of what they watched if they haven’t seen the film. Or at least that was my reaction considering I felt like I had all the missing pieces to the puzzle.
Kaufman is one of my favourite writers and his script is remarkable, and his work with the actors is next-level. The way the film balances this strange bizzare and surreal realm in Jake’s childhood home, and the absurdity of it all. You’ll be questioning what you just watched as you watch it, and long after its done.