Charlie Kaufman’s ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ is a Finely Crafted Enigma

A still from 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things'. The Young Woman (Jessie Buckley) stands in front of a garish green floral wallpaper, flanked by even more garish floral lace curtains. The woman has red curly hair and wears a striped jumper, she is holding a glass of wine and looking unsure.
Netflix

There’s something wrong in I’m Thinking of Ending Things, but you’ll never know what it is. The third feature from acclaimed writer/director Charlie Kaufman, is an enigma in film form. A mandela effect of cinematic execution, that at once leaves you entirely perplexed but clamoring for more. Truly, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is one of the most uncomfortable film experiences this year, while at the same time being one of the strongest offerings from not only Netflix but Kaufman himself.

The film follows a young woman (Jessie Buckley) as she travels with her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) through an intense snowstorm to visit his parents (Toni Colette and David Thewlis) for the first time. What follows is a series of increasingly uncomfortable situations, all executed with such fine craftsmanship that lines of dialogue and composition of images will remain ingrained into the mind hours, even days, after finishing the film.

Kaufman’s dialogue is a dance of words. Not one for writing your run-of-the-mill screenplay —adapted from the 2016 novel by Iain Reid — he weaves such a fine tuned web of jargon and “bouncing” dialogue that plays into the believability of these characters despite its increasingly unorthodox settings and situations. All of this expertly delivered by Buckley and Plemons, who provide some highlight performances of their careers. Plemons was on top of his game proving he is an actor that needs to be taken seriously as one of the modern greats. Colette once again also shows her range here from being downright manic to mournful, mirroring her work in the ever popular Hereditary.

The cinematography is top notch as well. Featuring a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the film has a distinctive retro look with a square frame, as if we’re looking at photographs of someone else’s memories. Kaufman’s blocking and shot composition proves that he has fully transitioned from acclaimed screenwriter to auteur director in his own right.

Less is more in this case. The less you know going in, the more you’ll get from I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Avoid spoilers at all costs, it will only add to one of the most fulfilling cinematic experiences of 2020. It’s rare that a movie can floor you in the way that this one does but it presents a masterstroke in what is possible from streaming services now. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is flat out one of the best films that this year has to offer — pandemic or not.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is available to stream exclusively on Netflix now

by Reyna Cervantes

Reyna (She/They) is located in southern California! They are an aspiring screenwriter with experience in sound design and production work, their 3 favorite films are Evil Dead 2, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Frances Ha. All of their social handles are @JFCDoomblade (twitter, insta, letterboxd).

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