I’m Thinking of Ending Things review: New Netflix movie a must-see

Im Thinking Of Ending Things. David Thewlis as Father, Jessie Buckley as Young Woman, Toni Collette as Mother, Jesse Plemons as Jake in Im Thinking Of Ending Things. Cr. Mary Cybulski/NETFLIX © 2020
Im Thinking Of Ending Things. David Thewlis as Father, Jessie Buckley as Young Woman, Toni Collette as Mother, Jesse Plemons as Jake in Im Thinking Of Ending Things. Cr. Mary Cybulski/NETFLIX © 2020 /
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Netflix movie: I’m Thinking of Ending Things review

At their cores, Charlie Kaufman’s films attempt to clarify what it means to be human, the best ones in the most nonlinear and fantastical of terms. Being John Malkovich wrestles with our collective fascination with fame and inflated hubris regarding our individual talents.

Adaptation idealizes family and lays bare the doomed journey of encapsulating true authenticity. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind deconstructs the manias of love, examining whether or not the past stays with us (and deserves to).

Synecdoche, New York squints at depression and death through the lens of postmodern psychology and mid-life melancholia. Anomalisa puts up its dukes against the boredom and banality that, against all odds, repeatedly shows its uninteresting face in intimate relationships.

i’m thinking of ending things, which arrives on Netflix today, seems like a culmination of sorts, a question mark at the end of a thematic sentence (I’m in no way advocating for Kaufman to stop working – please keep making content as outstanding as this). The movie touches on all of the above ideas and more, in a manner that feels immediately attainable on a structural level, yet like the best movies of all time, on deeper levels only after repeat viewings.

i’m thinking of ending things opens on Jessie Buckley’s Young Woman, a self-conscious, constantly ruminating girlfriend who joins Jesse Plemons’ Jake on a trip to meet the latter’s parents at his childhood farm home. Off the bat, the Young Woman expresses her uncertainties with continuing the relationship via a whispery, searching VO that constantly stretches taut the negative space throughout the duo’s car ride, a source of flickering heat contrasting with the curdling snowstorm outside.

The Young Woman starts seeing things. Jake starts hearing things. A B-story follows a high school janitor who inexplicably never stops cleaning the hallways (except on his break, which gives way to the most outwardly funny gag in the film). When Jake and the Young Woman finally arrive at the farmhouse, even less becomes clear within the mise-en-scene, roping the viewer along on a journey during which we are forced to question all preconceived conceptions of space, time, storytelling, imagination, and movie logic.

Whether this is what the majority of Netflix watchers primarily look forward to getting out of their monthly $8.99 remains to be seen. If I had to guess, not exactly – this is, after all, the streaming service that most vocally prides itself on hosting such titles as Stranger Things 3, Selling Sunset, and Never Have I Ever. Toeing the line between offering both populist and hidden-gem content is something Netflix has pulled off quite successfully, deftly keying into social media-fueled desires for yet another original superpower-based TV show or movie, while agreeably sliding blank checks to a host of auteurist creators for audiences of considerably less. It’s confounding, exciting, and kind of wild.

But ultimately, Netflix works wonders in getting creative projects to the forefront of the media-consuming masses, and at its best, like in the case of i’m thinking of ending things, it places a gem of a movie on a pedestal for a wide subscriber base to see.

Kaufman’s intensely academic, hyper-realistic script executes balletic sequence upon balletic sequence opposite a gorgeous, impressionistic production design from Molly Hughes and a simple, memorable score from Jay Wadley. The cast is nothing less than aces across the board, giving performances that turn from extremes of crazed happiness to deep sadness on a dime, while devoting plenty of energy to nuanced, subtler emotions as well (Plemons and Buckley do a particularly superb job).

Wikipedia has classified this movie as a “psychological horror,” but if you’re any bit familiar with Kaufman’s other work (I’d argue that this movie might not be the best starting point to experience his films), it shouldn’t come as any surprise that i’m thinking of ending things is unbounded by genre or sub-categorization. In lieu of spoiling much else, I’ll happily advise you instead to keep watching if you feel yourself wanting to stop in response to the movie’s most surreal moments.

Kaufman certainly imbues i’m thinking of ending things with intentions to jostle, to broaden the mind, and to further consider what life means and can be. Consequently, as it drops on Netflix today, it further reads as nudging inspiration to get up and do something instead of sedimenting into your couch or bed all day. It is nothing if not original, odd, and beautiful, containing some of the most lush, exquisite scenes of the year so far and absolutely rising in the ranks of the best movies of 2020.

Go ahead. Stick with it. It’s worth your time.

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