i’m thinking of ending things (2020) – movie review. Deconstructing time & life with Charlie Kaufman

i'm thinking of ending things. Image credit: Courtesy of IMDb i'm thinking of ending things. Image credit: Courtesy of IMDb

i’m thinking of ending things (2020) – drama/thriller – Charlie Kaufman – USA – 144 minutes – Watch on Netflix

What does time mean? What is the purpose of life? Or, rather, why should we assign a purpose to something that inherently has no meaning other than the one provided to it by the constructs of society?

i’m thinking of ending things, the latest film by Academy Award winner Charlie Kaufman, explores these themes and much more, just like all his other projects. In the meantime, we follow a young woman and her boyfriend, as they go on an immobile journey through time, identity, life and loneliness.

Continue reading and check my final grade below…

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My review is also available on IMDb – i’m thinking of ending things (2020)

Check the full list of 2020 movies and TV shows I have seen

One story to tell all stories

Trying to analyse and review a Kaufman’s film having seen it only once is kind of like mountain climbing the Everest without having walked more than a mile before in your life. It’s ambitious, ridiculous and just a bad idea. I will try to do it anyway, starting from the basic plot of i’m thinking of ending things.

A young woman (Jessie Buckley) takes a road trip with her new boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) to his family farm. After a never-ending, dialogue driver road trip, the two of them arrive at their destination, where they get trapped at the farm during a snowstorm with Jake’s mother (Toni Collette) and father (David Thewlis): the young woman begins to question the nature of everything she knew or understood about her boyfriend, herself, and the world.

We don’t move through time. It’s time that goes through us

Despite its complexity and lack of linear storytelling, i’m thinking of ending things has a clear three-act structure: the first act is a repetitive drive through the snow, the second takes place at Jake’s parents’ house, the third one begins as a lengthy road trip and ends at Jake’s former school.

However, each of these acts features similar elements: repetition (with most lines being delivered more than once by different characters), warped time, bleakness and hopelessness. In the meantime, the characters change age as they move from one place to the other, have doubts about their identities and keep playing around with their “origin story”.

Realistic and unapologetic, in a metaphorical way

In fact, if you try to apply logic to the film you would likely get lost within the first five minutes and wouldn’t be able to find your way back. i’m thinking of ending things is a metaphor that raises philosophical questions about life, time, identity and so forth. Nothing in the movie should be taken literally.

Yet, what this film has to say is brutally honest, shockingly inconvenient and hard to listen to. For instance, when the young woman asks Jake why the lambs in the farm are dead, his angry response (“it doesn’t matter, it already happened”) underlines, all at once, the fact the life is meaningless, that time is cruel and that there is no point in questioning anything further than the “here and now”.

The best microcosm in cinema history

Such statements, which are one of the staples in Kaufman’s philosophy and filmography, are particularly powerful during the second act, where Toni Colette and David Thewlis’ house acts as a bridge between past and future, gender and identity, hope and regret. Aside from the jaw-dropping performances, paired with phenomenal cinematography and unbelievably realistic makeup, the scenes in the house are poignant due to the way they highlight a singular family throughout their lifetime as an escamotage to tackle messages about mankind in its entirety. In addition, the atmosphere established there is something I haven’t experienced before: a truly perfect mix of exhilarating, disturbing, hilarious and depressing.

For this reasons, it’s kind of a shame that i’m thinking of ending things places these sequences as the second act. Due to their impact, I think they would work better as the third act, leaving the two drawn-out acts consisting of just a lot of driving and talking as first and second act. In addition, structuring the film in the way I suggested could’ve enhanced the feeling of time as a façade, as well as reiterating the idea of chaos and lack of linearity of life. Again, there is probably a reason why Kaufman did what he did: after all, he’s one of the most brilliant mind in the history of arts, and I’m just a normal person in love with his cinema, trying to understand what he wants to communicate.

i’m thinking of ending this review

Due to their complexity, Kaufman’s scripts are generally divisive: it takes multiple viewings and quite some research just to scratch the surface of the message he wants to deliver. i’m thinking of ending things is no different and, with the film being available to masses on Netflix, a lot of angry or confused reactions are to be expected.

This film is frustrating, complex, dense, bleak and filled to the brim with themes that are larger than life. For these reasons, I think i’m thinking of ending things is the best film of the year and one that I will watch again countless times: its timeless life-lessons are something that I wish to keep in mind for the rest of my days.

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