|I'm Thinking of Ending Things|
|Directed by||Charlie Kaufman|
|Screenplay by||Charlie Kaufman|
|Based on||I'm Thinking of Ending Things|
by Iain Reid
|Music by||Jay Wadley|
|Edited by||Robert Frazen|
I'm Thinking of Ending Things (stylized in lowercase as i'm thinking of ending things) is a 2020 American psychological drama film written and directed by Charlie Kaufman. The film is based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Iain Reid and stars Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette and David Thewlis.
I'm Thinking of Ending Things was released in select theaters on August 28, 2020, and on Netflix on September 4, 2020. It received positive reviews from critics, who praised the two lead performances and the cinematography.
A young woman contemplates ending her six-week relationship with her boyfriend, Jake, while taking a trip to meet Jake's parents on their farm. During the drive, Jake attempts to recite a poem he read when he was younger, Ode: Intimations of Immortality, and pressures the woman into performing one of her works in the car to pass time. After she recites a morbid poem about coming home, they arrive at the farmhouse. Jake takes the young woman to the barn, where he recounts a story about a maggot-infested pig. Throughout the drive, as well as later scenes in the film, the main narrative is intercut with footage of a janitor working at a high school, including scenes where he sees a musical production rehearsal, and a dance in the school's hallway.
Inside the home, the young woman notices scratches on the basement door. At dinner with Jake's parents, the woman, who is described as having different occupations, shares one of her verses[a] and tells the story of how she and Jake met at a trivia night, told with narrative inconsistencies. Later, she notices a picture of Jake as a child, but becomes confused after recognizing that child as herself. The young woman receives another call, and a mysterious male voice explains that there is "one question to answer." Jake's parents begin to transition back and forth from their younger selves to elderly dementia patients. When the young woman takes laundry down to the basement, she discovers several identical janitor uniforms in the laundry, and receives another call from the mysterious voice.
On the drive home, Jake mentions several events of the night that the young woman does not remember, including her drinking too much wine; word association soon leads to an extended discussion of John Cassavetes's A Woman Under the Influence.[b] Finding themselves in the middle of a snowstorm, the pair stop at Tulsey Town, an ice cream parlor. They meet employees who are also students at the school the janitor works in. While the young woman buys the dessert, a bruised employee attempts to warn her of something she can't describe. Jake stops at the high school to throw the food cups away. After a heated argument in the parking lot over the lyrics of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", Jake notices the janitor watching them from inside the school and decides to confront him, leaving the young woman alone in the car. After a long wait, she decides to look for Jake inside the school. She meets the janitor and asks him where Jake is before realizing she doesn't remember what Jake looks like. While talking to the janitor, she reveals that nothing happened between her and Jake on the night they met, instead claiming she was made uncomfortable by Jake staring at her.
After the young woman discovers Jake at the end of a hall, they look on as people dressed like themselves engage in a dream ballet,[c] which ends when the janitor's dancer kills Jake's dancer with a knife.
Having finished his shift, the janitor suffers a mental breakdown and begins to hallucinate visions of Jake's parents as well as an animated Tulsey Town jingle. He undresses and walks back inside the school, being led by another hallucination of a maggot-infested pig who tells him that he and his ideas are one and the same, and that he should get dressed.
On an auditorium stage, an old Jake receives a Nobel Prize[d] and sings a song[e] to a full audience of various characters, who give him a standing ovation. In the final shot, a vehicle is covered in snow in the school parking lot. Towards the end of the credits, “clunking” and “whirring” sounds are heard, possibly from an offscreen source.
It was announced in January 2018 that Charlie Kaufman was adapting Iain Reid's novel for Netflix, as well as directing. In December, Brie Larson and Jesse Plemons were cast in the film. In March 2019, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette and David Thewlis joined the cast, with Buckley replacing Larson.
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Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 81% of 220 critic reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.51/10. The critics' consensus for the film reads, "Aided by stellar performances from Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons, I'm Thinking of Ending Things finds writer-director Charlie Kaufman grappling with the human condition as only he can." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 78 out of 100 based on reviews from 46 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
Karen Han of Polygon praised the film, writing "The lack of clear answers and structure can be frustrating, but the strange way the story is told enhances just how real the exchanges between characters feel. The frustration that Lucy feels with Jake, that Jake feels with his mother, that his parents feel for each other, are all uncomfortably tangible, especially as tensions rise. The film's 134-minute runtime is a long time to sit with that feeling, but Kaufman’s big divergence from the novel he's adapting is in lending its ending a more buoyant note." In his review, Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com gave the film 31⁄2 out of 4 stars, calling it "...a movie that is undeniably complex in terms of symbolism and a more surreal final act than most people will be expecting..." He also praised the cinematography, saying that the film's atmosphere is "amplified by a tight 4:3 aspect ratio courtesy of Łukasz Żal (Cold War) that forces the viewer to pay more attention to what's in frame." The Observer's Wendy Ide wrote "This is not cinema that leaves you feeling good about things. Nor does it tread a familiar path. But I'm Thinking of Ending Things is one of the most daringly unexpected films of the year, a sinewy, unsettling psychological horror, saturated with a squirming dream logic that tips over into the domain of nightmares."
In a more mixed review, Adam Graham of The Detroit News gave the film a "C" grade, praising the performances of both Plemons and Buckley, considering them "excellent", but lamented the film's plot, saying that "I'm Thinking of Ending Things is an unsolvable riddle where the only answer is mankind's hopelessness, and we've been down this road before." In a negative review for TIME, Stephanie Zacharek wrote "For every moment of raw, affecting insight there are zillions of milliseconds of Kaufman's proving what a tortured smartie he is. I'm Thinking of Ending Things must have been arduous to make, and it's excruciatingly tedious to watch."
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