Movie Review: I’m Thinking of Ending Things

“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” leaves the viewer wondering what is real and what isn’t


Fourth Estate/Billy Ferguson

The film “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” written by Charlie Kaufman and based on the book by Ian Reid, was released on Netflix on Aug. 28. It is yet another film in Kaufman’s portfolio that utterly mystifies as well as confuses everyone who watches it. What seems like a simple story about a woman, played by Jessie Buckley, wanting to break up with her boyfriend at the inconvenient time of meeting his parents turns out to be a much more complicated story with a deeper message. 

I went into my first viewing of “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” with the expectation of experiencing a confusing and metaphorical film, and even that was not enough to prepare for what the movie had in store. With a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutes, it does not pull any punches with how long it will take for the young woman — who was referred by several different names throughout the film — to end her relationship with her boyfriend, Jake, played by Jesse Plemons. Since the story is told in such an abstract form, one cannot even say if that’s the core meaning of the film anymore. 

One of the standout roles was Toni Collette’s character of the boyfriend’s mother. Her transformation into the role was mesmerizing and she took the film’s abstractness to the next level. Every little quirk and awkwardly loud laugh was perfect coming from her. In fact, every scene with the mother was made to rival that exact awkwardness of meeting the parents of your significant other. She played off of David Thewlis, who played Jake’s father, like a master tennis player at Wimbledon. 

The acting in this film was only the tip of the iceberg. While the settings for the film weren’t overly beautified — half of the film was two people driving in a car through snow and the other half was four people in a farmhouse — the rich amount of storytelling made up for it. Every conversation between characters felt like verses of a larger poem being told in front of you. 

I interpreted the film as a message about time and the cycle of life. “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” can feel very monotonous at times because of the repeating scenes and phrases that happen over and over. The young woman describes herself as a broken record. She also brings up what her job is multiple times but throughout the course of the movie, it changes every time it is brought up. Even the dog never stops shaking the stink off its fur whenever it appears on screen. Ironically, even though I felt the film portrayed time very fluidly, the viewing itself felt like a drudge to get through – a baffling and fun drudge but a drudge nonetheless. After the film ended I searched to learn what this film actually meant from the director himself. Even with how far off I was in my own interpretation, I still believe it was a valid one. There are so many different ways to interpret this movie, depending solely on the viewer’s own experiences.