Directed by #CharlieKaufman
Charlie Kaufman’s latest film I’m Thinking of Ending Things is daring in its film-making as it explores unique ways of making a thriller. Based on Iain Reid’s book of the same title, Kaufman wrestles with a confusing narrative of a young student (incredibly acted by Jessie Buckley) travelling with her new boyfriend, Jake (Jesse Plemons), to his parents’ secluded farmhouse. Upon arrival, the young woman is forced into an uncomfortable existential crisis as everything she thought she knew about Jake – and indeed herself – comes into question.
The film begins with a false sense of security. A young and in love couple who understand each other are starting a journey further into their happy relationship. The picture is light and colourful with bold old-town buildings, bright stylish costumes and romantic piano music. Think La La Land in the way that this film immediately like a timeless classic. However, the story gradually turns more unsettling. The deliberate decision to have plenty of zoomed in camera shots is effective in making the viewer feel simultaneously disorientated, as they are forced to uncomfortably confront the couple on their journey.
Jessie Buckley does a great job with characterising a young woman who has lost her way. She wants to break up with Jake but it is not clear why – not even to her. Her narration is honest and witty and clashes effectively with her and Jake’s overlapping dialogue. The awkwardness is extended with lingering sound effects such as the windscreen wipers in the car. These noises are underlying and hardly noticeable at first, but contribute to overall feelings of irritation and unease. Each scene has an unsettlingly intense atmosphere which is completely intentional.
The best (and worst!) thing about this film is that every aspect of it is so uncomfortable to watch. Once the couple arrive at Jake’s parents’ house, both inside and outside are very eerie. Jake’s family dynamic with his parents is hard to pin down. Toni Collette and David Thewlis have an incredible chemistry as their caricature-style acting allows them to bounce the irrational dialogue off against each other. When it comes to interacting with Jake, are they scared of him? Is he controlling them? The use of slow panning camera shots before any movement takes place is also chilling – waiting for action to happen is the true fear of this film and it works really well.
There are also lots of gradual changes that take a while to notice. For instance, the young woman’s bright clothing changes throughout the film to dull muted colours. Props in the house keep appearing and disappearing such as the dog, which all contribute to a sense of memories that have not been remembered properly overtime. Kaufman’s vision of the film truly makes the audience confused as to how long they have actually been there. Some of the camerawork doesn’t feel real, as though it is a manifestation of the scene, which then leads the audience to question what is and is not real.
There are many theories concerning what the film means, as viewers are left with much confusion and frustration. Completely different storylines knock into one another as well as the different characters, who all contribute to varying parts of a timeline that makes little sense. This lack of clarity is clever, however, as it allows for speculation. The initial assumption is that Jake is a liar because nothing he says makes sense, but then you start to wonder if everyone’s personality seems to be slowly changing. Another idea to consider is that the young woman or Jake exist as part of the same consciousness and one has manifested the other. Kaufman treats his audience to the fact that nothing could be real and that is the best, most frustrating thing about this film.
Amongst all the confusion, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an incredibly compelling film. Charlie Kaufman has yet again created a film with a compulsion to keep watching, despite feeling deep discomfort.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is available on Netflix UK now.