By Brennan Atkins, Arts & Features Editor
“Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought,” a female voice says, accompanied by the visual of paint-chipped Balusters.
Right out the gate, Charlie Kaufman does what he does best – throwing the audience into the own depths of their minds, making them question their very existence. Other Kaufman films such as “Being John Malkovich,” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” have done this before, but “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” combines these inquisitive themes with an impressively elaborate screenplay.
“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is a Netflix adaptation of the book of the same name, written by Iain Reid. The film stars Jessie Buckley as Lucy, Jesse Plemons as Jake, Toni Collette as the mother, and David Thewlis as the father.
The initial premise of the movie, while interesting, is nothing but a canvas for Kaufman to fully exhibit his themes on perspective, the inner workings of the mind, and most importantly, regret.
The film begins with a new couple, Lucy and Jake, visiting Jake’s parents for the first time. While Lucy puts on a positive and happy-go-lucky demeanor, her internal monologue suggests that she is riddled with anxiety and guilt about meeting Jake’s parents, as she is “thinking of ending things.”
Buckley gives an amazing performance of a young girl whose thoughts are always taking over her immediate attention. From the outside, she is distant, but in reality, she is contemplating her place in the world, and in Jake’s life.
Plemons compliments Buckley’s performance perfectly and kills the role of a troubled man trying his best to be the “perfect” boyfriend. Viewers may find Buckley to be creepy, or awkward – but by the end of the film, the audience is faced with a completely different perspective of the male role.
Thewlis and Collette also provide an unforgettable performance of the parents. Right when viewers are introduced to them, their body movements are immediately off putting – the mother stares out of the window when the couple arrive, and awkwardly waves for what feels like forever.
It’s actually 40 seconds – pretty uncomfortable amount of time without speaking.
While it is a bit cliché to call a movie “an experience,” it’s fair to call this more of a “mental ballad.” Kaufman feeds the audience information to form a theory, just to decimate any chance of that theory becoming a reality. It’s only until the last half hour of the film that everything starts to become clear.
This could be interpreted as the film being confusing, and partially because it is – but it’s a self-aware confusion that is unique and used to fuel the suspense of the film. If anything, the ability to make a film comprehensible in such a short time is a testament to how well all the information was delivered throughout the film.
This is the result of the intriguing, and at times, uncomfortable editing of the movie. Seemingly unrelated scenes are cut together, and events that are impossible are happening right before the audience’s eyes. Little details exposing the true plot are littered throughout the film, and the editing does a phenomenal job of connecting these details together.
The soundtrack of the film never felt dominating – melodies played on the harp and piano added a whimsical mood, and in combination with the cinematography and editing, felt like a dreamlike trance.
There are countless monologues that allude to different themes, but Kaufman’s focus seems to be how we rarely perceive ourselves in just the present – the idea that our current thoughts are the result of all our past experiences, and in that regard, we all somewhat live in the past.
In an interview with IndieWire, Kaufman said, “This movie is dealing with somebody’s experience of absorbing things that they see and how they become part of [their] psyche.”
If anything, the second viewing of “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” was more enjoyable than the first. This seems like an odd praise, but you can’t truly appreciate all the details and effort that went into each scene without knowing the ending of the film.
Remembering just one or two of the connecting elements is satisfying, but realizing every scene has a purpose to the grand reveal is even more satisfying.
A+ – Kaufman once again shows he’s the king of existential crisis