Starring: Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Colette
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Running Time: 134 mins
I’m Thinking Of Ending Things is an American film about a woman who travels to meet her boyfriend’s parents for the first time, but begins to question herself as the visit takes a strange turn.
Not everything has to mean something, but there’s always something going on when Charlie Kaufman is playing with your mind. I’m Thinking Of Ending Things is as bewildering and mind-boggling as we’ve come to expect from the writer-director, and while some moments seem totally devoid of sense, others uncover a gripping and powerfully forward-thinking story.
What makes I’m Thinking Of Ending Things such a magnetic watch, however, is just how normal it seems at first. Take a dysfunctional relationship and add in the awkward occasion of first meeting your partner’s parents, and there’s bound to be some strange, unpredictable outcome, right?
That inevitable strangeness and awkwardness helps to ease you into what ultimately devolves into an almost maddening series of random events. You begin to pick up on increasingly odd happenings, but there always seems to be something there that just about rationalises what’s going on.
But that mysterious sense of something not being quite right makes the film a mouth-watering prospect in its early stages. Unlike Kaufman’s previous film, Anomalisa, which was completely bizarre from the very first minute, I’m Thinking Of Ending Things develops slowly, but goes much, much further.
There’s a point where the film finally throws in the sensible towel and turns into what feels like a nonsensical dream. Jessie Buckley finds herself in a house that didn’t quite make sense at first, but now really doesn’t, yet she still can’t seem to say anything about it.
In that, there’s something of Mulholland Drive about this movie, but more so in its sheer other-worldly nature, rather than totally subverting everything that you’ve come to know about the story so far.
I’m Thinking Of Ending Things then finds itself treading a very fine line between intriguingly bizarre and completely bewildering, often going too far only to bring itself back down to earth just at the right time. And that’s where the film’s main themes begin to really open themselves up to you.
With the conventional narrative taking on increasingly ludicrous character, you’re forced to look deeper, beyond what you can see on the surface. From the start, Kaufman plots a story not just about romantic relationships, but about the power balance in a relationship between men and women.
It’s in the middle and final acts, where Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons’ characters engage in a confusing conversation as they drive through a blizzard, that those themes really become apparent, and begin to hit home on a deeper level.
The performances are fantastic across the board, but the emotional resonance of the film doesn’t come from your connection with the characters as individuals, more so through the significance of the main ideas the story plays with.
Far more progressive in mind than even the most modern romantic dramas, I’m Thinking Of Ending Things is incredible in its ability to craft a thought-provoking tale out of seemingly nonsensical scenarios. Charlie Kaufman’s directing and screenplay are fantastic, and the acting (Jessie Buckley in particular) is outstanding throughout.
However, while this film is both eye-catching in its strangeness and still impressively resonant in its storytelling, it’s a mightily inconsistent movie that really, really drags at times.
Running for well over two hours, the film’s slow pacing is undone by lengthy sequences where things really don’t seem to have any meaning, even when you do look deeper with the film’s main themes in mind.
And that’s what ultimately proves frustrating about this movie. It’s definitely an inaccessible watch for most, but even when you really feel like you’re in the flow and getting to grips with what it’s trying to say, the story goes up and down and back and forth in unnecessarily convoluted directions, taking away from what could have been a slow-burning but ultimately enthralling watch.
Artistically impressive it certainly is, and there’s no denying Charlie Kaufman’s genius in making something that has sense out of something so bizarre. Plus, with great performances and captivating the themes, there’s a lot to admire about I’m Thinking Of Ending Things. But, it’s an inconsistent movie that struggles to really keep you entranced in its bewildering world, and that does prove frustrating. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5 overall.