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The first hour of I’m Thinking of Ending Things promises a surreal relationship drama, with a hint of thriller. Jesse Plemons, as the unlikeable boyfriend Jake, is bringing his radiantly smart, adorable girlfriend (Lucy? Lucia? Louisa?) home to meet his parents for the first time. Quickly, things become stranger than they initially seemed: his lovely childhood farm home has scratches on the basement doorway, the dog may or may not be real, and there’s something weird about his mom (the ever-incredible Toni Collete).
On the drive to Jake’s parents’ house, we’re privy to the girlfriend’s inner monologue, and it seems that Jake is too. “Lucy” makes it clear, as the title suggests, that she is thinking of ending things. She’s been going along to get along because it’s easier. Jake keeps interrupting her thoughts to distract her from the imminent dumping, and to focus the conversation back onto himself.
He asks Lucy to recite her most recent poem for him, and after her emotional performance, he says that he feels like it’s about himself. Lucy suggests that this may be the goal of all poets — to make us think that we are the ones being written about. This is one of many moments where the film pushes the fourth wall, but doesn’t dare break it. Instead, it leans up against it, knocks, paces around.
Objectively, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a movie about relationships, misogyny, the passage of time, and about getting stuck. There are elements of both psychological and existential horror here, as both of our main characters seem to question their role in not only each other’s lives, but their own as well. There are moments, like at the family dinner, where I’m Thinking of Ending Things is darkly comedic as the conversation quickly swings from hilarious to uncomfortable.
Jessie Buckley and Toni Collette work perfectly with each other, not missing a beat. The performances in this film are all simultaneously charming and infuriating in a way I have not seen done before. Beyond this, what Charlie Kaufman does well here is create a layered film that’s open to interpretation. Netflix is the perfect platform for this release, as we’re welcome to revisit the film any time in our quest for answers.
What starts out as an apparent mind-melting psychological thriller becomes an exploration of the mind of a sad, lonely man (hey, we can call it interiority, we know what that means now). If you’re easily annoyed by pretentious dialogue and seemingly random dance interludes, I cannot recommend this movie. On the other hand, this tense and atmospheric movie evokes a moodiness and a mystery that I will be thinking about for days to come.
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