Charlie Kaufman, director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, has his newest film, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, released on Netflix this weekend and it is not a film that you just put on in the background as you are doing other things. In fact, this is a movie that demands your attention and, even then, there may be plenty of moments in this surreal fantasy that you look at and wonder “What the heck is going on.”
On the surface, it appeared that Lucy (Jessie Buckley) is on her way with her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) through a beginning snowstorm, to go meet his parents at his childhood farm. As the trip begins, it is clear that Lucy is having second thoughts about the trip and that she has been considering about ending things with him.
The conversation in the car on the way to the parents’ house is strained, though we see some flashes of what appeared to be the connection that must have originally brought the couple together.
However, once they arrive at the farm, things truly begin to take some bizarre turns, including a story from Jake’s youth about finding pigs dead with maggots eating their underbellies. Some of the verbal imagery included here makes one feel uneasy and the constant mentioning that life on the farm “isn’t always pretty.”
From there, Jake and Lucy have the single most awkward and uncomfortable dinner ever on the big screen with Jake’s mother (Toni Collette) and father (David Thewlis). I was legitimately on edge during this entire dinner, especially when Jake’s mother indicated everything on the table was from the farm (including the giant ham they were eating… you know, pigs and maggots).
The dream-like nature of the entire situation elevated from this point on as we see both Toni Collette and David Thewlis entering the scenes at different ages, some times young and enthusiastic and other times feeble and decrepit. It is here where you know that something even more odd than what we have received up to this point is going on.
During this time, we see random scenes of a janitor (Guy Boyd) at a school, mopping the floor, watching the ending of a cheesy film by Robert Zemeckis and more. These scenes feel out of place among the story that is going on, but little do we know that this will eventually develop into more.
I don’t want to go into more of the plot synopsis in fear of giving away spoilers, which is difficult because there is such a surreal feel to everything that you are not clear on what is happening. As I said, this requires a keen eye to see the machinations of the script and the developments of the characters.
The performances here are wonderful, Both Jessie Buckley and Jessie Plemons show such a range of emotions and keep you off-balance about exactly what is going on. Toni Collette and David Thewlis are transcendent here with their oddity level performances. You can’t take your eyes off either of these actors when they are on screen.
The ending sequence is something that is going to stick with you for awhile, especially as you try to determine the significance of the different allusions and the actual result of the situation. Yes, there is an animated pig.
This is not your typical popcorn flick and I daresay that it is not even your typical psychological thriller/indie art house film. This has more to it and dives deep into the psyche of the main character, even when it is not 100% sure which character that truly is. This is based on a novel of the same name by Iain Reid.
Trippy, engaging, thought-provoking, and as uncomfortable as a movie could be, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a film that you weigh on your mind for a long time after finishing it. I can understand if this is not a film for everybody, but I found it fascinating.