I don’t think this will be the first time a Charlie Kaufman piece of work has been branded as either confusing or pretentious, but his new Netflix release I’m Thinking of Ending Things certainly seems to have upped the anti. Using such language suggests I didn’t like this Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons led flick, but that’s too simplistic a response: I found several parts of it hugely frustrating and pretty tedious, but there’s also long periods of this drama that I found totally intoxicating.
We begin the film with Buckley’s character Lucy waiting to be picked up to go meet her new-ish boyfriend Jake’s (played by Plemons) parents for the first time and as the title suggests, she’s rather unsure about the relationship. Kaufman’s latest is shot predominantly in two locations: the car and the in-laws farmhouse, with the former involving lots of long-winded conversations and eye-rolling internal dialogue, whilst the house scenes bring both intensely anxious dinner sequences and time-shifting head-screwery.
The car sequences – often long and very boring – left me feeling cold, having learnt little and enjoyed even less, particularly on the journey to the house. The farmhouse stuff saw a light switch turn on somewhere as ITOET really kicks up a notch or five. We leave the two-way pretentiously long conversations to one-side and move to effectively intense, anxiety ridden moments that legitimately have you transfixed as you honestly feel like any bat-crap stuff could go off inside that house. With David Thewlis and Toni Collette playing Plemon’s folks in transformative fashion, it really gives an edge to the film you weren’t expecting.
There’s very few things I’m Thinking of Ending Things makes certain, but my take is the story moves and shifts with Lucy’s ever-changing view of her relationship and we get glimpses of both sides of the coin. This not-so-hot take might be a millions miles off Kaufman’s intentions, but I hold the possibility of different meanings as a positive for a film that really does – for good and bad – send you through a confusing, fixating, head-scratching ringer.