In the midst of deciding whether or not to risk your life to watch Tenet or to go through with streaming the now-controversial Mulan live-action remake, Netflix quietly released a cold and eerie psychological thriller that is sure to set the tone for the weirdest award season we’ve ever experienced.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things, written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, centers around a young unnamed woman, played by Jessie Buckley, who contemplates ending her six-week relationship with her boyfriend, Jake, played by Jesse Plemons. Despite her concerns, she agrees to take a road trip to meet his parents on their farm.
From the beginning of the trip, things seem out of place, not only with Jake and the nature of their relationship but also with the young woman herself. As an unreliable narrator who doesn’t seem to know her name or occupation, she takes us through the film’s storyline as it slowly turns from awkward to unpleasant until we reach our conclusion into complete absurdity.
This movie isn’t going to be enjoyable for everyone, and it’s really not trying to be. Even for a filmmaker as out-of-the-box as Kaufman, this may be one of his most inaccessible stories yet.
The drama is a slow burn, covered with layers and layers of pop culture, literature references, philosophical analysis and what may seem like a myriad of nonsequiturs.
Its pace is unapologetic to the impatient, and the music is mostly atmospheric and anxious if even present at all. The storyline seems to only lead to more questions than answers, even after the final credits roll.
But for anyone able and willing to go into this maddening film attentively and with an open mind, the themes of extreme loneliness and regret that lie underneath are so demented and sad that it makes the experience worth the watch and perhaps even more rewarding in the rewatch.
The script is also elevated by the performances, with Buckley and Plemons carrying many of the most mundane moments with their versatility and continuously captivating line-delivery.
Although this film may not set the world on fire — or even end up on the notoriously out-of-touch Oscar Award nominees list — it serves as an excellently strange kickoff to what is set to be a strange selection of fall films that may find themselves more frequently on streaming sites than movie theaters.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is hard to whole-heartedly recommend to everyone, but to have a film that’s so layered, so disturbing and so unapologetically committed to what it is, is a pleasure, as we haven’t seen anything like it released since last fall.