Director: Charlie Kaufman
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette and David Thewlis
Released: September 4th on Netflix
Charlie Kaufman is an artist who’s forever challenging cinema and literature. He takes us to uncomfortable realms of our minds where he provokes and shocks us into an epiphany like state. The Oscar-winning screenwriter of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and director of Synecdoche, New York brings his third directorial feature to Netflix I’m Thinking of Ending Things.
Based on the novel of the same name by Iain Reid (read it, you won’t regret it). Kaufman’s film follows the misgivings, a young woman (Jessie Buckley) travels with her new boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to his parents’ secluded farm. Upon arriving, she comes to question everything she thought she knew about him and herself.
Charlie Kaufman uses the source material and creates his hot take of Reid’s novel. The bizarre thing about I’m Thinking of Ending Things it has multiple reasons for being. Our focal point of view is the young woman; she is submerged in this nightmare and her mind is full of doubt and frustration. Jessie Buckley’s performance richly enhances the character, we can sense nothing is as it seems, and we should be cautious for her. Our mind is somewhere we can be true to our emotions, but this also prompts self-doubt and disbelief. Kaufman wants you to feel anxious in this world, and he further enhances the claustrophobia with a 4:3 ratio. Everything is tight and constricted there is nowhere to move, and focus and patience drives the narrative forward.
The audience experience will be frustrating at times during but also a strange sense of clarity and reflection in others. Kaufman tantalises I’m Thinking of Ending Things with riveting dialogue that may not make sense at times, but it’s delivered with vigour and natural clarity from the cast. From the beginning to the end, you can feel the Kaufman effect on the film. The human experience isn’t always pleasant, and the young woman channels this with such pain, but it can also be humorous at the same time. Kaufman’s gruelling long scenes are unusual and enthralling. The car and dinner scenes maintain an energetically compelling momentum that is enticing. These are the core moments where Kaufman challenges you to contemplate your own identity and existential crises.
Jessie Buckley is the fearful soul of I’m Thinking of Ending Things. To somehow understand Kaufman’s motif, we must connect with the young woman. Buckley brings a fragile naiveté but a fierce mind to the character. From the opening sentences to Buckley’s reactions, we can sense that all is not well. Her fear of change is castrating her future, but Jake has cast a spell around her. The intrigue of what compels him to her baffles her mind. Jesse Plemons brings a great stature to his role as Jake. He is observant yet masterful he holds the world to account along with a chip on his shoulder. The world seems to be familiar to him, but he can’t seem to understand why his girlfriend is acting erratically.
Jake’s parents further elevate this strange world played by Toni Collette & David Thewlis. Once we arrive on the farm is where we see a change in tone, and the mystical macabre of the film is in full swing. Collette and Thewlis almost feel Shakespearian in their delivery. Everything is not what it seems in I’m Thinking of Ending Things. There is a particular fear and hindered past that cracks through the dinner table. Jake’s parents are the key holders to Pandora’s box, and Kaufman loves to tease us with this.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is open to interpretation; this is what Kaufman wants from his viewers. A refreshing watch for 2020 and ever so divisive.