September 3, 2020

SCREEN | 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' Breaks Up

"The world's larger than inside your own head."
Jessie Buckley Charlie Kaufman | I'm Thinking of Ending Things Netflix
Likely Story
Idiosyncratic writer/director Charlie Kaufman returns to his singularly unique style of cinematic storytelling for another surreal existential drama, I'm Thinking of Ending Things, based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Canadian author Iain Reid. Framed as a relationship road trip movie, Kaufman's confounding film quickly veers off into deeply disorientating contemplation of reality and anxiety.

Starring Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons as a fairly new couple on their way to meet his parents and as the title would suggest, she's seriously contemplating breaking up with him. Both are good, but it's Buckley who anchors the emotional stakes of personal identity within these offbeat situations. Her grounded performance makes the surrealistic imagery all the more situated in identifiable discomfort.

Kaufman starts things off in a very much interior, mundane fashion using everyday chitchat to layer inner thoughts of dread and confusion beyond the couple's short relationship history. I cannot imagine how exhausting it must be living inside the filmmaker's brain if he can easily mine so much deeply referential angst about mortality or the meaningless of life from typical daily situations.

Jessie Buckley Jesse Plemons Toni Collette David Thewlis Charlie Kaufman | I'm Thinking of Ending Things Netflix

Toni Collette and David Thewlis co-star as Plemons' heightened, peculiar parents who appear to live in the literal middle of nowhere. The enigmatic film shifts focus to their pleasant but deeply weird dinner party featuring strange detours filled with disquieting moments of pure tension and internal dread more in the vein of psychological horror thanks to a painterly lens by cinematographer Łukasz Żal.

Kaufman's densely-packed existential head trip of a challenging film bends our minds in dramatic fashion. I'm Thinking of Ending Things fits nicely into his cannon of defying conventional narratives. A sort of self-reflection and even parody of his previous works, the story unfolds a dreamlike remembrance of memories or realities. It's maddening yet soulful in how it honestly explores the human condition and psyche.

I'm Thinking of Ending Things is available to stream on Netflix.

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