Film Review: I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Sometimes I don't feel like myself. Someone, something else is in control and I'm just along for the ride. When it fully takes over, I don't even know what I am anymore. I lose the capacity to describe the things around me, to describe myself.
Memory is a fickle thing. Our brains can create new ones wholesale and rip others away in an instant. Sometimes it happens slowly. Sometimes it's quick and violent; memory loss is incredibly common after seizures.
We are the sum total of our memories, but our memories are not our own.
I loved Charlie Kaufman's adaptation of I'm Thinking of Ending Things, but I'm Also Finding It Rather Difficult to Describe Why.
There's the rote, basic description of the film; it's about a young woman (Jessie Buckley) and her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) visiting the latter's parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis). Kaufman's script deftly plumbs the depth of the human experience and finds, as one character puts it, "universality in the specific." He uses an avalanche of pop culture references as the foundation for building a grander statement about human existence. It rewards multiple viewings for catching all the connections and makes the film perfect for a platform like Netflix.
None of them feel exclusionary either; catching one feels like an invitation to hunt down the rest, falling deeper to the film's rabbit hole. I'm Thinking of Ending Things is an obtuse, unyielding work that certainly isn't for everyone, but it never looks down on the audience.
The performances are incredible, especially by Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons. Toni Collette and David Thewlis are appropriately creepy as Jake's parents, wringing pathos out of their character's journeys. Each actor gives their all to their role, turning quotations of Eva H.D. and Pauline Kael into lived-in experiences that also happen to be quotations rather than a smarmy screenwriter showing off how much cooler he is than you.
Buckley's performance, in particular, stands out. Early on in the film, she stares into the camera and recites poetry.
The editing and cinematography create a dream-like feel that contributes to a feeling of dread and uneasiness that permeates the film. Łukasz Żal and Robert Frazen outdo themselves here. The use of the Academy ratio (4:3) is especially inspired.
But no. I'm Thinking of Ending Things resonated with me in ways I can't quite put into words. I found a certain comfort in the film's unrelenting bleakness and solitude. It treats memory and time like silly putty, changing and stretching on a whim and dragging everyone with it.
Jake's parents go from old to young to on their death beds. We're never quite sure what Buckley's character is named, nor are we sure of her profession. Is Lucy a painter? Or is Ames a quantum physics student? Is she even Jessie Buckley? None of these questions get answered. The answers aren't the point.
I'm Thinking of Ending Things will certainly not be for everyone. But for some reason, I find myself on its wavelength. It lodged itself into my brain, much like the film's title thought. It might not leave anytime soon.
Final score: 9.7/10