i’m thinking of ending things (2020) is a psychological thriller, based on the book of the same title by Iain Reid. Directed and written by Charlie Kaufman, this film stars Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, and David Thewlis. A young couple take a road trip during a stormy winter night to visit relatives at a farm, when everything is not what it seems.
The performances by all four leads are what keeps you entertained throughout this journey and are worthy of recognition. It takes great actors to keep an audience engaged throughout a thirty-minute car ride, and yet Buckley and Plemons are both able to do that effortlessly here. However, if Toni Collette is ever in a film then she is going to be the standout and she once again does that there, with a performance that is completely different than what I expect from her but that has so many layers within her smaller role.
This film is beautifully shot, and also innovative with the cinematography and editing. Considering the car sequences are all long within themselves, I am impressed with how many angles are used to film a single car in motion. Each shot is visually breathtaking, and there is something captivating about the lack of cuts in the film, just moving naturally with the story. Alongside the cinematography is the production design, which has some charm but also something eerie about the location of the farm.
Whilst it may take a few watches to fully grasp the concept and narrative of this film, it is very unique and yet perfectly suited for someone like Charlie Kaufman to try and tackle. It isn’t a surprise to me that Netflix was the company that distributed this film, as I do not think any other studio (aside from maybe A24) would take a risk on a project like this, but I think overall it has paid off for them. Whilst I do want to avoid spoilers for this review, this is a film in which I feel like I need to talk about the three parts of and break down my reaction to each one.
Part one, which covers the opening hour of the film, is the most engaging section of the film. The first car ride, lasting about 25 minutes, managed to keep me fascinated about the characters and their story, immediately telling me that something was not right. Whilst I am not usually a fan of the voice-over narration style that this film opts for, this is one case where the voice-over was used extremely well and felt like a natural part of the story. This first part also covers the dinner sequence with the parents, which I loved every minute of. It gave away so much of the story whilst also not giving away much and the entire sequence just worked incredibly well, from the performances to the script and editing.
Where the film starts to fall for me is part two, when the couple leave the farm and embark on another long road trip. Unlike the first car trip, which set up the premise of the film and gave us insight into the characters, I felt like not much was added on this car trip back. Instead, the film goes from full speed in the farm to a complete stop, making the editing feel somewhat disjointed and the pacing almost unbearably slow. Whilst there will be some reasoning as to why this happens, given the strong direction overall by Kaufman, it sadly makes the film suffer alongside it.
Once the car stops and we are introduced to another location, the school that Plemons’ character Jake went to, the pace does pick up again. However, the tone completely changes as the film presents the conclusion to the story in a way that I had not expected whatsoever. The film takes a very symbolic way of presenting the end, and this may work for some and not work for others. For me, it didn’t connect the way it should have, and that came down to my feelings for the characters. The second car ride made me feel disconnected to the couple, and this final sequence is meant to make you react in a way that you care for what happens to them. Sadly, that didn’t quite land for me on a first watch and I am not sure that it will on other watches either.
This is a film that requires several watches for sure, and it is one that you need to think about. I’m sure I speak for most people when my first reaction straight after watching i’m thinking of ending things was “what the hell did I just sit through”, but there is a lot of good to be found in this film. Whilst the final hour does drag the quality of the film down for me in it’s pacing and tone, there is still so much that I loved about the opening and I am definitely willing to give it a second shot at some point and see if it lands better with the context that I have now. This is definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but perhaps it may be yours.