The latest Charlie Kaufman film “I’m thinking of ending things,” was released on Netflix mere hours ago (several days after the initial release on the twenty-eighth of August), an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Iain Reid.
This is not a film easily written about without giving away the plot: to put it briefly, it is the story of a woman (Lucy, although some sources claim she is unnamed, played by Jessie Buckley) is thinking of leaving new boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons). However, the physics student finds this difficult as they attend a dinner at Jake’s parents house (played by Toni Collette and David Thewlis).
Within the first five minutes you are drawn in by the flat yet desperate monologue of the main character as she describes her dilemma regarding her new boyfriend. As soon as the two get into the car the stilted dialogue and stiff actions give off a distinct air of unfamiliarity and awkwardness.
In what seems to be a scene that lasts forever, the two travel to Jake’s childhood home on a rural farm, sometimes bantering easily while at others, Jake interrupts the inner monologue of his girlfriend with increasingly baffling conversation starters. This is a film that makes the viewer uneasy from the start, bringing you into the relationship and mindset of Lucy brilliantly.
However, this would not be a Kaufman film without irregularity and dark confusing themes. Once the pair arrive at the house, things only get weirder: something that can not be talked about in depth without spoiling the film. The third act is topped with yet another trundling and elongated car journey with no satisfying ending, thus rounding together a film that makes no heed of linear time.
The cast is comprised of mostly well known faces and they all individually give great performances: serving to make the atmosphere so unpleasant and stilted. Toni Collette especially steals the spotlight with a wonderful portrayal of the unstable and over eager mother. Jessie Buckley also deserves her due as a charming and in-depth character, a truly great act.
But every film has its downsides. Long uncomfortable scenes aside, this story feels anticlimactic and entirely unsatisfying. Almost as if the director is trying too hard to be deep and just not quite reaching his final goal. We as an audience know exactly what we are feeling but have no clear answer as to why or even how. Although the score (Jay Wadley), the camera angles and indeed all the visuals give you a deep sense of dread with no real conclusion.
Some lengthy dialogues – several of them taken verbatim from other sources – serve as nothing more but an almost condescending jab at viewers who cannot quote William Wordsworth by heart, nor over analyse the film “Women under the influence.” This seems like an almost petulant move to ensure no one can critique his newest flick: Lucy’s speech is entirely taken from Pauline Kael’s negative review of “Women under the influence” in The New Yorker – Jake arguing her points and insisting the movie draws out sympathy. The whole scene reads as a schoolboy blowing raspberries at his teacher, dunce cap listing off his head.
To speak personally, this was not a film for my tastes. I find myself affronted by the paradoxical nature in which Kaufman treats his audience: simultaneously expecting them to follow an increasingly academic dialogue while also treating them as idiots who cannot critique his film as they will never understand it. However, in terms of production, acting and theatrics, there is very little to say in the negative about this film.
“I’m thinking of ending things” is the definition of an artsy movie I suppose, it is a hard call to say whether it is one to be universally enjoyed. Watch it for yourselves and decide, because I for one do not think this film resonates in quite the way it should.
Featured image credit: Inverse